New invoices sent to Fairhope by Elias Technologies

Costs of mayor’s investigation into former employees added back


A new set of invoices from Elias Technologies shows new charges to the city that appear not to be within the authorized scope of police-related work.

The invoice also adds back charges that were removed in a previous invoice for Mayor Karin Wilson’s investigation into technological equipment used by former Fairhope city employees Sherry Sullivan and Jennifer Fidler.

The new invoice also includes communications with Wilson’s personal attorneys.

A total of $21,607.50 has been billed to the city’s $35,000 pre-paid retainer with Elias Technologies as of Sept. 7.

$6,307.50 in charges were added back to the new invoice for services performed by Elias Technologies in investigating computer hard drives and cell phones used by former Community Affairs Director Sullivan and former Public Works Director Fidler after Wilson fired them in February. A second revised version of the original invoice had zeroed out the charges added back in this third version.

Some of the new charges added to the invoice are for police department business: a July 6 charge for $1,000 for an Oxygen Certification course for police department employee D.J. White and charges on July 11and July 27 for $500 each to authorize expenditure of funds for that certification course.

The company also charged $1,000 for services compiling communications records to comply with the records request from the Fairhope City Council.

Included in the new invoice are two charges to speak with Wilson’s personal attorneys - a $125 charge to speak with criminal defense attorney Pascal Bruijn on Aug. 14 and a $125 charge to speak with attorney Harry Satterwhite.

Mayoral response

On Monday, Sept. 25, The Courier emailed Wilson a list of questions based on the information found in the new invoices, which were as follows:

- What are your thoughts/concerns about the charges that were previously written off being added back to the total work billed? Why did Elias add the charges back?

- Are the newly added charges related or unrelated to the scope of work that is the only authorized use of this contract? 

- Is the city going to continue its relationship with Elias Technologies until the contract amount is reached?

- How are communications with your personal attorneys (Harry Satterwhite and Pascal Bruijn) within the scope of work for the contract with Elias Technologies? If it is not within the scope, will you be reimbursing the city for those charges?

- What are your thoughts on Chief Petties' comments on Lori DuBose's radio show that he had not authorized any of the charges that had been made by Elias on the contract?

- In an earlier statement via your attorney Mr. Satterwhite, you had said the police department had lost trust in Elias Technologies. If the department has lost trust in the company, why is the city still doing business with them?

Wilson responded to the above questions via an email from special assistant Lynn Maser with the following statement on Friday, Sept. 29:

“My position is, as I have indicated to you before, that I do not respond to questions regarding issues involving pending or potential litigation brought by or against the City,” Wilson wrote. “There are matters facing the city, however, I am more than happy to speak with you about should you ever decide to discuss real issues.”

“Like the budget presentation you (Managing Editor Cliff McCollum) attended Monday during the council work session showing the millions of dollars we have saved over previous years. Should the council pass my proposed budget for 2017/2018, citizens of Fairhope can expect solutions for utility infrastructure and water quality concerns. The proposal also incentivizes future development in Fairhope in such a way that growth will be in line with its character. Furthermore, it provides a path for a more financially responsible government. These are the real issues our citizens care about.”

“Elias should have been paid for work accomplished as I requested. Unfortunately, it was paid in full, upfront consequently obligating the City to pay for unfilled services and responding to reporters and lawyers.”

Council response

Council President Jack Burrell said he and the rest of the council had no direct involvement in negotiating the contract, only voting to approve it to be used for services only for the police department.

“We approved her to negotiate the contract and fee schedule,” Burrell said. “The council had no hand in writing that contract.”

Burrell said insinuating the council had been the one to negotiate a retainer-based service with Elias Technologies was “patently false.”

“To say the council was the one in favor of giving them all of the money at once is just wrong,” Burrell said. “It was the mayor who initiated the contract. Maybe she didn’t read what she signed.”

Burrell said the new invoice was another example of questionable uses of the contract with Elias.

“The council never envisioned having to pay for work being done with her personal attorneys,” Burrell said. “This could be a total misuse of the police department’s money.”

Police chief response

In an interview on WABF 1480 AM with Lori DuBose on Sept. 13, Petties said he had retained an attorney due to the matter.

“When all of this came up, I contacted them and talked to them about this,” Petties said. “I started getting questioned from people that I respect and was asked if I had an investigation going on on these individuals that were fired.”

Petties said he was not involved in the use of the Elias contract to investigate Sullivan and Fidler.

“Basically, when the paperwork came out from Elias that what had been done and showing the scope of work that they had performed, I could tell talking with people that this could be looked at that this is your money, sitting in your budget,” Petties said, speaking about himself. “You are supposed to be in control of it. I wanted to make sure that I wasn’t going to be looked at at having done anything wrong and it could not be insinuated that I was in any way connected with illegal doings.”

When asked by DuBose if he thought the actions taken by Wilson in directing that investigation were illegal, Petties said that he was “not able to speak on that right now.”

“It’s one of those things that when I talked to my attorney, he said I needed to be careful on,” Petties said. “I don’t want to accuse anyone. The only thing I can say is that I never directed anyone to spend any money one way or another. If you read the paper, you can see how it lays it out.”