Supervisors OK election software contract extension with controversial Scytl over citizen protests

Bailey Road/State Route 4 Interchange Pedestrian/Bicycle Project contract approved 

By Daniel Borsuk

With threats streaming from several citizens hanging over Contra Costa County Board of Supervisors that they would be “voted out of office” unless the elected officials either rejected or further studied a request from Contra Costa County Recorder and Registrar of Voters Debbie Cooper to award a third contract extension to Barcelona, Spain-based Scytl at an additional price tag of $200,000, supervisors moved ahead and unanimously approved the contract extension at Tuesday’s meeting.

Moments earlier supervisors, who had elevated District 3 Supervisor Dianne Burgis of Brentwood to chairperson and District 5 Supervisor Federal Glover of Pittsburg to vice chairperson for 2021, were unmoved by the threats. Several unidentified speakers requested supervisors to either pull the consent item for further consideration or to disapprove Registrar of Voters Cooper’s request to extend the contract of Scytl, formerly called SOE Clarity Suite when it was acquired by Scytl in 2012.

The contract with Contra Costa County has been in effect since 2015. The supervisors’ action boosted the payment to Scytl by $200,00 to a new total contract payment of $590,000.

Scytle, whose SOE Software division was founded in 2002 in Tampa Bay, Florida, filed for bankruptcy, last May. According to an October 22, 2020 article on Scytle’s website, “Service Point Solutions, part of Paragon Group, announces the acquisition of Scytl, the Barcelona based company leader in digital voting and electoral modernization.” Service Point Solutions is also based in Barcelona.

The article further states, the “acquisition unveils Paragon’s group strategy to position Service Point Solutions as a pan-european platform for high-growth digital business.”

Scytle has been accused of being part of the effort to change votes in the November elections from President Trump to President-Elect Biden, in coordination with Dominion Voters Systems machines, which have also been used in Contra Costa County since 2018. (See related article)

“You are not providing proper oversight concerning this contractor,” said one disgruntled caller. “If you don’t improve, we’ll vote you out of office.”

Supervisors were not bullied by the threat or appeals from other anonymous speakers.  Supervisor John Gioia of Richmond said, “I will not let those promoting the election conspiracy line since 2015 to sway me.”

“We need to start to post these contracts,” said Supervisor Karen Mitchoff of Pleasant Hill, who is reportedly serving the last two years of her final term in office.  “The public needs to see these requests for proposals.”

Supervisor Mitchoff reacted to one unidentified speaker’s complaint that this contract lacked adequate public notice.

In response to questions about Scytle software, Supervisor Candace Andersen wrote that she had her staff research it and that “It appears to be a non-issue. We’re not purchasing equipment – it is renewing contract for website software. European company bought an American company that we have been doing business with them from 2007. Web hosting and election night reporting. Software where we upload our results and changes to pretty graphics seen on the website.  It does not have any impact on election integrity.”

Contra Costa County Clerk/Recorder and Registrar of Voters Debi Cooper also responded, “SOE (Scytl) does not provide any direct election services and is not connected to systems involved with tallying our election results. SOE provides our web hosting and election night reporting graphical support. Our election tally process is done separately on a system that is not connected to the internet. We take information from our tally system to upload information to the website. We originally contracted with SOE in 2007 after conducting an RFP process. SOE was the only respondent that met our needs for election night reporting. SOE was acquired by Scytl in 2014 while we were under contract with SOE. They continue to provide services to many state and local jurisdictions across this country.”

Some speakers charged the county is illegally doing business with a foreign-based company, allegedly operating out of Frankfurt, Germany, although according to Scytl’s website, “Scytl has no presence in Frankfurt, Germany.”

In response to the allegations against the company during the 2020 elections, Scytl posted information on their website stating the following: “The technologies implemented by Scytl in the US are both hosted and managed within the US, by a local subsidiary, SOE Software, based in Tampa, Florida.”

In addition, the Scytl website explains that the election data reporting company has “no political affiliations of any kind.”  The statement further rebukes statements that it provides any electronic voting machines in the U.S. and “does not tabulate, tally or count votes in U.S public elections.”

Burgis Becomes Chair, Glover Vice Chair

Earlier Congressman Mark DeSaulnier (D.- Concord) remotely administered the oath of office to District 3 Supervisor Burgis, who was sworn into office as Chair of the Board for 2021, and District 5 Supervisor Glover, who was re-elected to his sixth four-year term and will serve as vice chair.

Burgis and Glover, who commences his sixth four-year term of office, along with three other supervisors will oversee the disbursement of the county’s $3.98 billion budget in 2021.

Upon succeeding District 2 Supervisor Candace Andersen of Danville as Chair, Burgis said, “I want to bring the Northern Waterfront Plan home.

I want to see the benefits coming from it,” Burgis said as one of her key platform issues along with development of the Byron and Buchanan airports, fire department consolidation, and countywide economic recovery during the upcoming post COVID-19 era.

In a prepared statement, Burgis said:

“I appreciate Supervisor Andersen’s unwavering commitment to keeping our residents safe and keeping the county moving forward while addressing the impacts of COVID-19.  As chair, I intend to work with my colleagues to support our county health officer to get the coronavirus under control, move the county toward economic recovery for all residents and businesses, enhance mental health crisis response, reform our juvenile justice system, address racial injustice and inequality, protect the Delta, and proactively fight climate change, and, at long last, provide sustainable fire protection services to all areas of the county.  I’m excited about our year ahead and ready to get to work.”

Glover said, “Dianne, I appreciate being your wingman, even though my chief boss is Janice Glover (Glover’s wife).”  The veteran office holder said 2020 was a year where county workers, especially those in public health and first responders, had to learn on the go.  “None of this is written in a book,” said Glover.

Outgoing chair Andersen, who was given a photography book by the Mt. Diablo photographer Steven Joseph, said 2020 was “a year unlike any other” marked by citizens sickened or killed during COVID-19 pandemic, left homeless, having to shutter small businesses, and a host of economic medical and social issues fanned by COVID-19.

Bailey Road/State Route 4 Interchange Pedestrian/Bicycle Project Contract Approved 

In a consent action, Supervisors approved a $3.7 million contract with Bay Cities Paving and Grading Inc. to construct the Bailey Road/State Route 4 Interchange Pedestrian and Bicycle Improvement Project.  Bay Cities Paving and Grading submitted the lowest and most responsible bid from a field of six other construction companies competing for the federally funded project.

The Bay Cities Paving and Grading submission beat submissions from Granite Rock Co, $3,859,608; Ghilotti Construction Co., Inc., $3,930,295.50; Ghilotti Bros. Inc., $3,972,887; O.C. Jones & Sons Inc., $3,996,733; Gordon N. Ball, Inc., $4,123,732; and Granite Construction Co., $4,864,644.

Allen Payton contributed to this report.

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