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City seeks Attorney General’s guidance on $92,000 cyber contract

MOBILE, Ala. (WKRG) — Former Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine’s termination wasn’t the top of the saga between himself and town. In truth, it simply opens a brand new chapter.

On the identical day Prine was fired, the City of Mobile sought the guidance of Alabama Attorney General Steve Marshall on Prine’s claims {that a} cyber contract with a Florida-based firm often called 321z Insights LLC was suspicious.

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The contract, handed by town council on Nov. 21, 2023, licensed 321z Insights to assessment Gulf Coast Technology Center’s forensic lab requirements.

All paperwork offered to WKRG News 5, have been offered by former Mobile Police Chief Paul Prine, who had already marked the paperwork.

City-Contract-with-321z-InsightsDownload

“A contract, such as with 321z Insights, was not vetted by me now was it approved by me,” Prine mentioned.

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Mobile’s Director of Communication, Candace Cooksey, mentioned Prine was the sponsor of the contract.

“There have been no surprises, and he was informed that an organization could be conducting a ‘peer review,’” Cooksey said.

Public records showed that 321z Insights is based out of a house in Palm Bay, Florida. The city said Jonnie Baker and her husband, Mark Baker, are owners of the company.

The company, according to Prine, was established weeks before the city signed them into the $92,000 contract.

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“There was no online established footprint of the company. There was no work number, no store front. There was no online website,” Prine said. “How did a company that does not have an established footprint for any type of service they offer — how did we know?”

The city said Mark Baker worked for Securus Technologies, a company that has done multiple reviews on the Gulf Coast Technology Center. The city said Baker has an “extensive career” in cyber security, and the city had worked with Baker before on other projects.

At some point in Baker’s assessment of the Gulf Coast Technology Center, metropolis officers mentioned MPD Commander Kevin Levy approached Baker to do a peer assessment of an unbiased report he had written on Operation Echo Stop.

Operation Echo Stop is a community-driven initiative that goals to cut back gun violence inside Mobile. OES makes use of know-how just like the Shot Spotter Program to detect the sound of gunfire.

“When this contract was originally submitted, it was not intended to become involved with Operation Echo Stop,” Cooksey mentioned. “This was a choice Levy made after observing what appeared to be a potential communication breakdown.”

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According to town, that “communication breakdown” stemmed from Levy and Prine’s fragmented relationship. That relationship in shambles, in accordance with town, was a pivotal motive why Levy requested Baker to be a “second set of eyes.”

Levy’s assessment, printed March 11, 2024, confirmed that the ShotSpotter program utilized in OES proved ineffective. The program price town $400,000.

Cooksey mentioned OES was applied in three phases:

  • Year one: implement the know-how

  • Year two: implement the providers and responses

  • Year three: implement an analysis

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OES was in its 12 months three evaluations.

“The recommendation from the Gulf Coast Technology Center was to discontinue the gunshot detection technology but to find ways to continue using the other elements of Operation Echo Stop that appeared to yield positive results,” Cooksey mentioned.

Kevin-Levy-Review-of-OESDownload

Prine supplied a rebuttal to Levy’s findings which was signed by different officers of the Mobile Police Department.

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MPD-RebuttalDownload

Documents confirmed that town entered a six-month pay schedule with 321z Insights. Prine mentioned Levy had the authority to log out on contracts and invoices.

“Essentially doing his own account payables and receivables,” Prine mentioned. “That was problematic because when it comes to financials as leaders, there should always be a certain amount of oversight to ensure there is no impropriety.”

Prine mentioned the invoices to 321z Insights elevate purple flags attributable to their fast approval and lack of an itemized listing of labor the corporate did.

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However, metropolis officers laid out a listing of providers the corporate supplied:

Prine identified an bill for almost $13,800, which was permitted on March 4, a day earlier than the bill was despatched to town on March 5.

Prine mentioned Levy signed the invoices.

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321z-Insights-InvoicesDownload

Mobile officers mentioned 321z Insight made no cash from their peer assessment of Levy’s report. They solely made $92,000 for his or her providers associated to their report within the Gulf Coast Technology Center.

“I’ve never once said there is impropriety with this contract,” Prine mentioned. “I just found it strange that there is the appearance of impropriety, and that is a stark difference.”

The metropolis tasked two entities, Burr & Foreman LLP and town’s Office of Professional Responsibility, to conduct separate investigations into the legalities of the 321z Insights contract.

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“Nothing illegal or outside city policy occurred,” Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson mentioned.

City Attorney Ricardo Woods is employed beneath Burr & Foreman LLP, one thing District 2 Councilman William Carroll mentioned challenges the legitimacy of the investigations.

“If you’re on the Burr & Foreman team, and you’re on the city’s team, then it’s still not independent,” Carroll mentioned.

Stimpson acknowledged that “many in the community may not be satisfied with who conducted these investigations.”

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“In the interest of transparency and to help restore public confidence, we turned all the investigative materials and reports from both inquiries over to the Alabama Attorney General’s office,” Stimpson mentioned.

The Attorney General is the very best prosecutorial authority within the state, in accordance with City Council Attorney Micheal Linder. Linder mentioned there could be no likelihood for town to skew the Marshall’s investigation.

Some metropolis council members expressed curiosity in writing Marshall a letter, asking him to expedite his investigation.

For the latest news, weather, sports, and streaming video, head to WKRG News 5.

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