Essex County Clerk Joe Provoncha
Essex County Clerk Joseph Provoncha and Deputy Clerk Janet Cross were reprimanded and fined to a combined $4,000 Oct. 12 by the Essex County Ethics Board for improperly influencing the awarding of a software contract.
The Ethics board fined Provoncha $3,500 and Cross $500. The pair will receive letters of reprimand on their records and Cross has been barred from future bid procurements.
Provoncha also had to immediately resign from the position of Essex County Deputy Manager and his position as Mailroom Supervisor. Both are unpaid positions.
The decision also called for Provoncha to, “conduct himself in a professional manner at all times and ensure that the Department of Motor Vehicles is a stable and non-violent work environment for all employees.”
“County Clerk, Mr. Provoncha, acted unethically in his dealings with the IQS (Info Quick Solutions) and RFP (request for proposal) process,” Ethics Board Chairman Michael Orticelle said. “The Board was able to secure a settlement agreement with both Mr. Provoncha and Deputy Clerk, Janet Cross in which they both admit to improper behavior.”
Though Provoncha and Cross deny intentionally doing anything wrong, the pair admitted to improprieties in order to reach the settlement deal.
The reprimand stems from the request for proposal process through the County Clerk’s Office in 2010 for document-scanning software and equipment. Cross was charged with improperly giving information to one bidder, IQS, and not offering the same advantage to other bidders.
Though Cross was not trained or qualified to do so, Orticelle said screening responsibilities were delegated to her.
The case went before the Ethics board in October of 2011 as a result of a Freedom of Information Law request by an outside media source, according to Orticelle.
“Through the FOIL we were given a pile of e-mails to go through from Cross and an associate at IQS,” Orticelle said. The e-mails were exchanged between Cross and a professional associate she had known through work at the county for more than 20 years Orticelle said.
Cross gave the associate an opportunity to examine other company’s RFP’s and gave them a chance to complete a presentation comparing IQS to the other companies.
She admits that she should have known that her communication with other bidders for this RFP were not properly equivalent to her communication with IQS, but she claims it was not an intentional act to deceive.
Orticelle said Cross should have been aware her actions were not proper but due to her compliance and participation during the investigation in addition to her 34 years with an exemplary service record as a county employee, Cross should be allowed keep her job in the eyes of the board, with only a fine and letter of reprimand.
The Ethics Board decided Provoncha improperly behaved in letting IQS create an evaluation of all of the submitted RFP’S and then using that evaluation to convince County officials to hire IQS. Provoncha admitted he failed to properly supervise Cross.
Provoncha also admitted to violating the Ethics Policy, the County policy manual and continued misuse of the County computer system after being asked by the Ethics Board to stop.
Orticelle said the Ethics Board wanted to make it clear that neither Provoncha nor Cross received any financial or other compensation for their efforts.
The board meeting ended with Orticelle saying the board recommends new policies be put into place to ensure all employees are trained in all current county policy relevant to their positions.
“It is evident that departments rely on each other for information and safeguards should be included in the current policy to ensure better accountability for the sharing of this information,” Orticelle said.
Provoncha could not be reached by press time.