FirstNet special committee takes initial steps, readies for Fitzgerald interview
A special committee established by FirstNet to investigate conflict-of-interest and transparency allegations from board member Paul Fitzgerald has taken some organizational steps but is waiting until Fitzgerald is healthy to begin its investigative work, committee chairman Wellington Webb said last week.
The special committee was formed during a FirstNet board meeting last month to review Fitzgerald’s allegations that information was not being shared adequately with some board members, that network planning was being dominated by FirstNet members with commercial-wireless backgrounds, and that some FirstNet board members have conflicts of interest.
Since then, the special committee has organized two subcommittees, Webb said. FirstNet board member Ed Reynolds will chair one that also includes Webb, Tony West from the U.S. Department of Justice, and Dana Hyde from the Office of Management and Budget (OMB)—it will look at the openness and transparency concerns. Webb will chair the other, which will review the conflict-of-interest allegations. Other members of that subcommittee will be Suzanne Spaulding from the Department of Homeland Security and FirstNet board members Charles Dowd and Jeff Johnson.
In addition, the special committee will receive legal assistance from a three-attorney team led by Barry Robinson, chief counsel of economic affairs with the U.S. Department of Commerce.
“Now that we’ve had time to get organized and secure the resources we need, we’re ready to get to work,” Webb said during the FirstNet board meeting. “We take our work very seriously and are eager to make swift progress.
“Our work will entail reviewing documents, conducting interviews with staff from the Department of Commerce, as well as board members, and reviewing materials related to FirstNet’s compliance with applicable federal hiring and procurement rules, conflict-of-interest rules and OMB requirements.”
Webb said he is encouraged that Fitzgerald—hospitalized for much of the past several weeks—apparently is in better health, so the special committee can get his input, which will be the first information-gathering step for the committee.
“We’re pleased to hear that Sheriff Fitzgerald is feeling better … and can now be part of our upcoming interview process,” Webb said. “His specific input will be an important aspect of our review.”
Webb said he could not speculate on a timeline for the special committee to file a report with the full FirstNet board, “but we will be as expeditious as possible, while at the same time being methodical and thoughtful.”
Ginn said he that believes FirstNet board members have “made a lot of progress” in their working relationships since Fitzgerald made the allegations in April, but he is anxiously awaiting a report from the special committee.
“We are going to implement your recommendations, whatever they are, and we’re going to make your report public,” Ginn said during the meeting.