Lawmakers allege illegal ‘sweetheart deal’ for top Orange County official
There’s a growing scandal in Orange County that includes a paper trail of five-figure payouts and no-bid contracts tied to the brother-in-law of the county executive’s “right-hand man” in charge of hiring – Langdon Chapman.
“Mr. Chapman is known to run the day-to-day operations of Orange County government,” says Sen. James Skoufis. “This is not some random bureaucrat we’re talking about here.”
Skoufis held a news conference Wednesday outside of the Orange County Government Building in Goshen after three county legislators, Michael Paduch, Genesis Ramos and Laurie Tautel, turned over documents they requested regarding the contract for StarCIO and Champman’s relative, Isaac Sacolick, under the Freedom of Information Law to Skoufis’ office.
“We have gathered today to unravel a deeply unethical, allegedly criminal web of lies, deceit and corruption,” said Skoufis. “Champan and his co-conspirators engaged in a no-bid scheme all towards one singular goal: the alleged theft of taxpayer funds.”
The senator, who is the chairman of the Senate Investigations and Government Operations Committee, says his office uncovered the county handed up bogus bids from two other companies, Securance and Gartner.
“Orange County quickly attempted to cover up their tracks and pulled two price sheets that are publicly available on the internet that I found with a simple Google search, and presented them to us as documents received in January,” said Skoufis.
The senator showed News 12 e-mails his office he says his office received from company heads who deny applying for the county IT contract. Skoufis says the county skirted public bidding laws by giving Chapman’s brother-in-law small payments totaling more than $800,000 for IT services in auto-renewed contracts to avoid raising red flags.
State law requires any contract over $100,000 to undergo a request for proposal (RFP) process. The first contract with StarCIO was originally approved for $65,000 in January, expired after eight weeks and was renewed multiple times. News 12 obtained county documents showing a total of 12 five-figure invoices for services received for work performed each week for one day on-site and one day remote.
Skoufis says his investigation shows StarCIO doesn’t have a business address and is registered to two addresses: Sacolick’s home address in Westchester that the senator says is in foreclosure, and a mailbox at a store in a Larchmont strip mall.
Sacolick responded to News 12’s request for comment earlier in the week, after the news conference on Wednesday, and says Skoufis is wrong. He sent News 12 an email saying his house was paid off in 2021 and that he has nothing to hide.
“I am the single proprietary owner of StarCIO LLC and have been operating the company full-time since 2016,” said Sacolick. “I am proud of the work my team and I are doing for the Orange County, NY, government and its citizens. I am incensed by the wrongful and false accusations by the state senator about my family, my business and me. I run a transparent business operation with my clients and share openly with the technology community through my books, writing and speaking.”
County Attorney Richard Golden also denied the allegations in an interview with News 12 on Tuesday.
"Contrary to the allegations of Sen. Skoufis, the procurement and contract to StarCIO, as well as the two amendments to the contract, were procured in accordance with both State and County procurement laws. Contract amendments routinely occur in many of the County's (and non-County) contracts. They are needed to add additional services or extend the contract time or both. The amendments under both State and County law do not need to be subject to a new round of procurement, nor would it make sense to do so, as you would then have separate contractors/vendors overlapping on the same project causing inefficiencies. Two of the written quotes considered were not sent in by the companies, and there was no legal requirement for that to happen. These two quotes were taken from the federal government's procurement database, which is a proper procurement method. Subject to certain exceptions not relevant here, when a government has secured a contract through a competitive process, then other governments are allowed to "piggyback" off that contract even without the knowledge or agreement of those companies. The companies are obligated to provide those services to other governments at the same price. It is entirely proper to use "piggyback" proposals from other governments as quotes, which is what occurred here. There is nothing "fraudulent" in this process, as alleged by the Senator. "Piggybacking" of quotes and contracts among governments is a daily routine process throughout the State of New York.
Finally, the hiring of relatives of County employees, or the engagement of contractors/vendors who employ relatives, is allowed under the County Ethics Code. What is prohibited is (1) if the County relative is part of the decision-making process to hire an employee or engage a contractor, or (2) the decision-maker is under the supervision of the County relative. Such prohibited conduct did not occur regarding StarCIO. The relative Department Head had no role in the selection of StarCIO, nor did anyone under his supervision," said Orange County Attorney Rick Golden.
Golden says the county is conducting interviews this week to hire an internal IT director.
The allegations, however, implicate a number of high-ranking county officials and Skoufis says the case is being referred to the Orange County District Attorney’s Office, the Attorney General and FBI for criminal investigation.
The DA’s office did not respond to our request for information about the probe.
“We laid out the facts,” said Skoufis. “I believe the facts are damning and warrant a criminal investigation.”
The state lawmaker and several county legislators are calling on Chapman, and anyone involved in the contract, to resign, and want the contract with StarCIO to be terminated immediately.