In the letter to Roth seeking an investigation, the three House Democrats asked that the DHS inspector general provide the following information:

  • “A list of all the DHS grants to state and local agencies that have selected Motorola as their vendor for public safety equipment and devices.  Please also indicate whether these jurisdictions followed a competitive bidding process in their vendor selection.
  • “An assessment whether DHS has provided interoperability grants to jurisdictions that have then used those funds to pay for post-contract change orders from Motorola.  Please also detail the scope and cost of any post-contract changes.
  • “An assessment whether DHS has issued grant guidance that prevents the use of proprietary features in public safety communications equipment, such as encryption standards.
  • “An assessment whether EBRCSA has been able to receive DHS interoperability grants while at the same time insisting that all of its participating agencies purchase Motorola equipment.”

Motorola Solutions provided the following prepared response to news of the request for an IG investigation.

“Our products enable seamless communications across agencies and jurisdictions, so public safety can be coordinated during joint responses,” according to the Motorola Solutions statement. “We offer our customers a full range of industry-standard, interoperable solutions, with an array of features and options to choose from, based on their specific needs. For example, one of the options we offer our customers is voice encryption, a critical security need for many public-safety agencies to prevent criminals from eavesdropping and evading law enforcement.

“Even in an increasingly competitive environment, it is our ongoing investment in developing state-of-the-art technology that meets the evolving demands of our customers that has allowed us to maintain our customers’ loyalty. Motorola complies with applicable laws and regulations, and competes fairly for our customers’ business by offering them superior products and solutions. We offer solutions and products that achieve costs savings for the taxpayer, improve safety for communities and enable quick implementation for local agencies.

“We maintain an open dialog with members of Congress, policymakers and elected officials, especially those who make public safety communications and government procurement a priority. When a series of articles were published in March of this year, we immediately reached out to members of Congress and offered to answer any questions they had. And we continue to welcome dialog with government representatives, so that they better understand the vital role that Motorola’s products, services and business operations play in advancing public safety.”

While all references to Alameda County and EBRCSA in the McClatchy articles involved public-safety LMR contracts to Motorola Solutions, all three entities—Alameda County, EBRCSA and Motorola Solutions—also were key players in a controversy surrounding an effort to deploy a public-safety LTE network in the San Francisco Bay region.

That episode revolved around plans to build a public-safety LTE system that would be known as the Bay Area Wireless Enhanced Broadband (BayWEB) project at a time when the Public Safety Spectrum Trust (PSST) was the licensee for public-safety broadband spectrum in the 700 MHz band.

Most of the funding for the initiative—$50.6 million of $70 million—was slated to come from a Broadband Technology Opportunities Program (BTOP) grant administered by the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA). The BTOP grant was awarded to Motorola Solutions—the only public-safety BTOP grant awarded to a vendor, instead of a public safety.

Spearheading the BayWEB initiative was Laura Phillips, the Bay Area UASI general manager at the time and a former Motorola employee, who announced in August 2010 that a 10-site LTE pilot—an initiative overseen by EBRCSA, although it was to be funded with UASI money—would be deployed in time to be part of a public-safety exercise in October.

But representatives of the city of San Jose and Santa Clara County led a dispute of the project within the region that focused on two areas: the process that resulted in Motorola being selected as the vendor and the right for Motorola to use the 700 MHz broadband spectrum.