“If Kerry had misappropriated some funds, I would have terminated him,” Couch said.
Brown lists more than 20 current and former city employees as people investigators should interview. The list includes himself, Couch, Berry, Wagnon, Meldrum and Police Chief Bill Citty.
City officials declined to make any employee on the list other than Couch or Berry available to The Oklahoman for an interview. Citty, reached by telephone, also declined to comment, saying the investigation had yet to take its course.
Brown's complaint alleges Wagnon was demoted during the project, but city attorneys said there's no record of a demotion or a reduction in pay in Wagnon's personnel file.
No city employee is or has been placed on administrative leave or punished for any reason related to the investigation, city spokeswoman Kristy Yager said.
The complaint's allegations center on a part of the public safety capital project that has proved particularly troublesome. The communications and records system project started in 2004, and is years behind schedule and still not complete.
The original contractor on the project, Affiliated Computer Services (ACS), met many of the project benchmarks required by the city, but few of them were met on time, Wagnon told The Oklahoman in an interview in the spring. ACS was paid only for the benchmarks they met but suffered heavy financial losses because of problems with delays and their contractors, he said.
Wagnon said the city was not on the hook for the cost overruns, a position Couch reiterated Friday. Couch and Berry said they don't know whether the project eventually will go over budget, but it hasn't yet, and council approval for more funding is needed if it does.
ACS, which has been purchased by Xerox, still is embroiled in a lawsuit with one of its subcontractors related to the project. ACS has not filed suit against the city.
Couch said the delays have cost the city only in terms of more time spent by staff on the project, not in additional payments to ACS or anyone else. The city is in negotiations with ACS' subcontractors, with ACS' blessing, to finish the project.
Records provided by the city related to the ACS contract and payments to ACS do not indicate the city has paid more than what it agreed to in the contract.
The original contract was for about $19 million, with an extra $1 million budgeted as a contingency. Couch and Berry said there are still funds available that haven't been paid out because of benchmarks not yet met.
Audit to begin soon
Jones, the state auditor, said his staff is in the preliminary stages of beginning an investigation.
“We're in the process of evaluating what it's going to take in terms of man-hours and who is available to work on it,” Jones said. “This will probably be a combination between three divisions: the performance division, IT and the special investigative division.”
Jones said his staff has started to gather information, but he declined to say what they had so far. It's too early to say how long the audit will take, he added.
Staff Writer Ken Raymond