Wayne County commissioners cry foul over Sheriff's tether contract

DETROIT (WXYZ) - Wayne County commissioners are fuming over news that Sheriff Benny Napoleon isn't following a costly tether contract.

The county uses tethers to combat jail overcrowding, placing a GPS monitor on an inmate's ankles to keep track of them. After receiving scores of bids in 2011, county officials tallied the results.  The #1 rated company was ProTech (now owned by 3M). Actron Integrated Security was scored second best, and Michigan Tether was rated third.

So today, commissioners were puzzled to hear that Michigan Tether is receiving the overwhelming majority of county work: about $300,000 more than it was promised. Protech, the #1 bidder, is getting none.   

"Somebody's not doing their job in the Sheriff's department," said Commissioner Ilona Varga.

Actron's president, Ben Aycock, says his company used to provide 500 tethers a day in Wayne County.  Today he says the county uses about 70.

"I'm a Wayne County business that's broke,"  he said.

Sheriff's officials said today that they're using the third place tether most because it offers services that the others don't, like a two-way radio that lets a tether monitor speak directly to the person wearing it. It's a better product, they say, and harder to remove.

Aycock says he offered the county a tether with virtually the same services at a cheaper rate, but they declined.

"Why do they bring us contracts, why do we vote for them if they're not going to be following them?" Varga asked.

7 Action News obtained a 2011 letter  from Sheriff  Napoleon to the county's purchasing director, where he describes which tethers he likes best.

Even though Michigan Tether receives the bulk of county work today, back in 2011 Napoleon described its product as "extremely bulky," saying it "would probably not be a viable option for all of our tether program participants."

"I don't see the savings here," said County Commissioner Ray Basham.

"I don't see simplicity here, I don't see the sunshine here that I think every contract should have."

Sheriff's officials said today that they've not exceeded the total budget for the four tether contracts, and insist that they're using the best tether most often.

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