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Willie Brown-era kickback claim resurfaces; memories fade

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

imageThat civil case in which a couple of former San Francisco technology vendors claim they were unfairly tagged as part of a City Hall kickback scheme during the Willie Brown administration has created some unpleasant moments for Mayor Ed Lee and others who’ve had to testify. And it once again puts the Chronicle, which updates the trial today while the jury deliberates, in the awkward position of having to write about its highest-profile columnist. Specifically: the alleged involvement of a third outfit—Government Computer Sales Inc.—whose raking in half-a-million dollars from the city during the Brown years without doing any work isn’t in dispute. Here’s an excerpt from the piece by John Cote. Brackets are mine:

Government Computer Sales also sought to be approved as a preferred city vendor but was rejected three times for not meeting the requirements, including having a business presence in San Francisco, according to the 2008 deposition of Deborah Vincent-James, who was executive director of the Committee on Information Technology that qualified prospective vendors.

She described Government Computer Sales as "a fraudulent company from day one."

Government Computer Sales was only allowed into the pre-qualification program after the company bypassed the committee and city attorney by going directly to then-Mayor Brown, Vincent-James testified at her sworn deposition . . .

Vincent-James said [Mayor Ed] Lee, then the city purchaser, told her to qualify Government Computer Sales as a contractor after Brown had directed Lee to do an alternate evaluation process.

"I just know that (Lee) told me that they were to be admitted," Vincent-James said in her deposition. "It was about a two-minute conversation."

The decision came after Government Computer Sales hired a former colleague of Brown's in the Legislature, Terry Goggin, to intervene on their behalf, Vincent-James testified.

Add: Mayor Lee wasn’t asked about Government Computer Sales when he testified last week. But he was asked about it in his deposition and this is what he said: “I’m unclear about that. I can’t recall a lot of details about that.” From today’s piece: “Brown, now a Chronicle columnist, said in an interview that he had no recollection of Government Computer Sales or meeting with Goggin on their behalf, but would not have directed staff to award a company vendor status.”

Noted: Deborah Vincent-James gave her deposition in 2008. Whatever else she might have to say, we’ll never know. She’s since passed away.

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