(Updated with additional FirstNet statement at 3:08 p.m. EST on March 7)

Decisions regarding many FirstNet contractor positions are being made by officials from the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) or the National Telecommunications and Information Administration (NTIA), instead of being selected by FirstNet management, according to former FirstNet contractor and mobile wireless consultant Andrew Seybold.

FirstNet initially hired Seybold as a contractor last August but recently informed him that the working relationship had been terminated, Seybold stated in a weekly e-mail newsletter to subscribers.

“I was the Public Safety Communications Advisor to the FirstNet management team,” Seybold wrote. “My contract lasted until mid-December, when DOC/NTIA decided to change how contractors are chosen and compensated. Three months after undertaking this new process, I have been informed that many of the incumbent contractors, including myself, are being replaced with others chosen not by FirstNet but rather by the DOC/NTIA.

“I enjoyed my time working with the FirstNet team; I have nothing but praise for their dedication and professionalism. I will miss working with FirstNet but for now, in sports vernacular, I am a free agent.”

FirstNet spokesman Corey Ray provided the following statement in response.

“On behalf of FirstNet, the Department of Commerce Office of Acquisition Management issued two competitive solicitations to three service disabled veteran-owned small businesses, for a total of four contractor positions,” Ray said in a prepared statement. “This process was an open competition and evaluation, which involved a sound technical assessment of each proposal, followed by a determination of which submission offered the best value for the agency.

“At the completion of the process, it was determined that Information Management Resources Inc. (IMRI) would be selected to assist FirstNet in work related to network design and deployment.”

Ray also offered further clarification about the procurement process for contractors.

“FirstNet management was in complete control of its own procurement action with support of its contracting office," Ray said in a prepared statement. "NTIA had no role in the procurement or decision-making process for these contracts.”

According to legislation Congress passed two years ago, FirstNet was established as “an independent entity within NTIA,” with NTIA continuing as part of the DOC. Language in the legislation specifically exempts FirstNet from at least one traditional federal-government-agency obligation—the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA)—but what the “independent entity” designation means from a legal perspective has been a source of considerable discussion among federal attorneys during the past two years, according to multiple sources.