xSACRAMENTO – A former technology aide to Gov. Gray Davis has admitted that he brought up the subject of campaign contributions with a salesman for a Silicon Valley company seeking a state contract.
Vin Patel, who was fired as Davis’ interim e-government director Wednesday, says he brought up the fact that the company’s founder had made a contribution to former Republican gubernatorial candidate Richard Riordan.
“I casually mentioned it to him, but I didn’t have the intention of creating any type of link” with the contract, Patel told the San Jose Mercury News. “If I did do something I apologize.”
An unidentified source told the newspaper that Patel went on to suggest that the company, BEA Systems, wouldn’t be getting the contract.
“I think he said words to the effect: It doesn’t look like we’ll be doing business with BEA,” the source said.
A spokesman for BEA, Kevin McGuirk, said the company didn’t get the contract.
“Vin Patel had publicly admitted to making a comment to our salesman about a ‘donation his boss made to Richard Riordan.’ We think this speaks for itself,” McGuirk said Friday.
It’s the second time that a former Davis aide has been accused of putting pressure on a technology company about campaign contributions.
Elias Cortez, the suspended director of the state Department of Information Technology, told a legislative committee last week that Patel’s predecessor as director of e-government, Arun Baheti, contacted an official with the Oracle Corp. to complain about campaign contributions to Republicans.
Baheti said the allegations were an “absolute falsehood” and challenged Cortez to produce some evidence.
Baheti was fired after he acted as an intermediary in delivering a $25,000 campaign contribution from Oracle to Davis. Administration officials said the move violated a rule barring aides to the Democratic governor from accepting campaign donations.
The donation was delivered to Baheti by an Oracle lobbyist a few days after the Redwood Shores company signed a $95 million, no-bid contract with the state last May.
The deal was supposed to save the state up to $111 million through volume purchasing and maintenance of database software, but the state auditor says the agreement could end up costing the state up to $41 million more than if it had relied on its previous software supply arrangements.
Oracle strongly disputes the auditor’s conclusions.
Meanwhile, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Friday that California agencies have signed more than 200 contracts for amounts of $2 million or more without competitive bidding since Davis took office in January 1999.
The contracts range from $4.7 million in public relations services for the California Children and Families Commission to $14 million worth of temporary nursing services in state prisons.
Davis has ordered a ban on most new no-bid state contracts worth at least $100,000. The executive order will remain in effect until the state adopts regulations to ensure “open and competitive bidding to the greatest extent possible in awarding state contracts,” the governor said.
Davis has also told former Sacramento County District Attorney Steve White, now the inspector general of the state Youth and Adult Correction Agency, to investigate contracting procedures on state technology projects.