FirstNet board activity has been sufficiently open and transparent, contrary to allegations made by board member Paul Fitzgerald in April, according to a report issued today by an internal special review committee investigating the claims.

During the FirstNet board meeting in April, Fitzgerald alleged that the board was not being open and transparent in its decision-making process, that information was not being shared adequately with some board members, and that the network planning was dominated by FirstNet members with commercial-wireless backgrounds—without input from the public-safety community and FirstNet’s public-safety advisory committee (PSAC).

But today’s report indicates that the special review committee—supported by a three-person team of attorneys from the U.S. Department of Commerce—found no evidence supporting Fitzgerald’s allegations on these issues.

“The FirstNet Board has engaged in open and transparent decision-making; FirstNet did not withhold information from board members; and FirstNet is still developing its network plan with full consultation and outreach,” the conclusion of the report states. 

Although the report included no findings of wrongdoing, it did acknowledge that FirstNet board members who also were acting in managerial capacities—for instance, Craig Farrill, who served as FirstNet’s acting general manager for more than five months until Bill D’Agostino was hired as a full-time general manager—had access to more documents than other board members because of their increased involvement at the time.

According to the report, Fitzgerald claimed that he asked for financial information and contractor information from Farrill and Chief Financial Officer Randy Lyons “on multiple occasions and was rebuffed.” However, the only e-mail request from Fitzgerald was one sent to Lyons on the eve of the FirstNet meeting in April, when Fitzgerald made his accusations, the report said.

Further, both Fitzgerald and fellow FirstNet board member Suzanne Spaulding said they verbally requested financial information in February. But according to the report, that’s when Farrill—as FirstNet acting general manager—was working with the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA) on a new financial reporting structure.

“Due to these activities,” the report stated,“the actinggeneral manager [Farrill] decided that the financial reports should not be immediatelyprovided to the board,because he believed that the reports that could be generated at that time, which were done on a cash basis, needed modifications to reflect obligations and outlays to avoid confusion among the board members. ...

“These modifications took some time and some board members expressed concerns about the delay,as the revised report was not delivered to the board until April 2013. Nevertheless, when the format changes were finalized, each board member received reports simultaneously whenavailable.”

As for Fitzgerald’s allegation that the FirstNet board made decisions during briefings that were not open to the public—resulting in the actual board meetings being “well-rehearsed performances,” according to Fitzgerald—the special review committee disagreed, describing them as “informational briefings that did not constitute decision-making.”

FirstNet Chairman Sam Ginn said the findings mean that the FirstNet board again can conduct regular information briefings, which had been suspended for the past several months to let the special review committee complete its investigation.

Fitzgerald’s third allegation cited in this report was a claim that a 400-page document provided to FirstNet board members before the April meeting was the network plan and had been developed without appropriate input from the PSAC and others in the public-safety community. But the report noted that no network plan has been developed—even citing an Urgent Communications interview with General Manager Bill D’Agostino—and that FirstNet representatives have conducted extensive outreach to states, public safety and vendors during recent months.