ANNAPOLIS, NOV. 29 -- One of four companies vying for the $75 million contract to replace the Maryland lottery's computer is challenging Gov. William Donald Schaefer's decision to put the purchase in the hands of two outside committees.
Control Data Corp. alleges in a protest filed with the Lottery Agency that the use of the two outside panels, as well as other technical changes made as a result of pressure brought by three other potential vendors, raises the possibility of political involvement in a process that is supposed to be insulated from such influence.
All four potential bidders have retained well-known lobbyists to represent them in the fight over the lucrative contract, which has been held by Control Data for a decade. After three competitors complained that the bid proposal drafted by the Lottery Agency was unfair to them, Schaefer announced formation of the two outside panels, and his budget secretary approved two technical changes meant to encourage other firms to bid.
The governor said those changes were meant to foster competition and ensure that the evaluation of the bidding was not biased in favor of any of the four lottery companies, whose battles for state contracts throughout the country are often controversial.
Control Data's protest says that the state should not have changed the process because of complaints from lobbyists and corporate executives made outside of legally established channels.
"The state's interests . . . are best served by a uniform process which encourages vendors and prospective vendors to rely on lawfully stated procedures, not one which signals, perhaps inadvertently, the return of unknown standards and changing directives," Control Data Vice President Marcel Helou wrote in a cover letter to the protest. The protest was filed with Michael Law, the Lottery Agency's procurement officer.
The protest puts Law in the position of being asked to overturn decisions made by Schaefer and other top administration officials. If he refuses, Control Data could pursue its complaint with the state Board of Contract Appeals, and then in court.