FirstNet investigation ongoing, initial report nearing completion

Listeners who called into a Sept. 12 teleconference hoping to get the inside scoop on findings of a committee investigating the practices of the First Responders Network Authority (FirstNet) were disappointed as committee head Wellington Webb revealed that results of the review are still not ready and will not be presented to the FirstNet board until next week. The board is expected to make the results public.

The FirstNet Special Review Committee was established on May 8, 2013, to address allegations regarding perceptions of transparency and conflict-of-interest issues related to FirstNet's board. The issues were raised on April 23, 2013, during a FirstNet board meeting by board member Paul Fitzgerald, the sheriff of Story County, Iowa.

The thorny issues threaten to taint FirstNet's oversight of the planned nationwide public safety broadband network (NPSBN) and the potential federal contracts worth billions of dollars that building and running the network will entail.

The Special Review Committee is charged with examining whether FirstNet policies and practices have been in compliance with federal hiring and procurement laws, statutory requirements for openness and transparency, and federal conflict-of-interest rules. The committee divided its review into two phases: The first is examining whether the board has followed openness and transparency requirements, while the second will focus on ethics and contracting issues.

The Special Review Committee completed and is reviewing the draft report on Phase 1, said Webb, a former Denver mayor. "We intend to meet next week to present and discuss the final report to the board. We expect the board will then release this report to the public," he said.

"Between now and the board meeting next week, the Special Review Committee will meet with our legal team to complete our due diligence for the report," Webb added.

The committee intends to hold off on making any recommendations to the board until the full review is completed.

The review committee and its legal counsel have spent "hundreds of hours" analyzing applicable statutes, board practices and legal advice provided to the board as well as reviewing FirstNet bylaws, resolutions, meeting minutes, internal correspondence and public notices, Webb said. The committee has also interviewed FirstNet board members, staff from the National Telecommunications and Information Administration and Department of Commerce, and the FirstNet board's secretary.

The next special meeting of FirstNet's board is scheduled for Sept. 23, 2013.

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