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Data company sues state House

The vendor says it was never paid. The House says the data system never worked correctly.

By LUCY MORGAN, Times Tallahassee Bureau Chief

© St. Petersburg Times
published March 22, 2003

TALLAHASSEE -- A computer company hired to streamline an information system and Internet site for the Florida House of Representatives on Friday filed a $3-million lawsuit for damages against the House.

Officials in the House refused to comment on the suit, which was filed in Leon Circuit Court by G. Donovan Conwell Jr. of the Fowler White Boggs Banker law firm.

Hayes E-Government Resources Inc. filed the suit alleging that the House has failed to pay an agreed-upon $2.9-million for the "Lawmaker" system that was installed under a contract signed on Oct. 30, 2001. If the House won't pay, Hayes wants its computers and software returned.

The original contract was signed by then-House Speaker Tom Feeney and drafted by Paul Hawkes, then a House staff director who is now a judge on the 1st District Court of Appeal.

Hayes contends that the system has been up and running for a year, but House officials have repeatedly complained about failures that have seriously delayed access to bills, amendments and even routine biographical information on House members.

Since October the House has spent more than $400,000 on consultants to get the system operating.

House press secretary Nicole de Lara declined to comment on the suit.

Conwell said the computer company has attempted to collect payment of the debt and filed suit only after it was unable to collect or get an adequate explanation of what the House believes is wrong.

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