MacNamara is close friends with Spider Data’s lobbyist, Jim Eaton, who has also established a partnership with one of the program’s developers, Anna Mattson, to promote a similar product for local governments.
Despite Haridopolos’ early enthusiasm for the program, (in 2010 he appeared on Mike Huckabee’s show on Fox News touting it), he and Senate budget leaders kept the program under wraps during his term. A status report on the project submitted in August says the program was ready to use for the 2012 legislative budget meetings. The Senate assigned staff to be part of a beta testing team but failed to follow through on a requirement of the contract: that it provide the developers with access to the House’s budget and planning documents.
Gaetz said the Senate transferred management of the program to the governor this summer, according to conforming language MacNamara helped secure in the 2012-13 budget, along with another $2.5 million for transparency programming.
But after MacNamara’s resignation from the governor’s office in June — after a series of reports in the Herald/Times that showed he steered contracts to friends — the governor’s office is not yet willing to take ownership.
“We are in the earliest stages of due diligence,’’ said Adam Hollingsworth, Scott’s chief of staff who replaced MacNamara. Hollingsworth is skeptical of the Spider Data program, although he hadn’t seen it until a reporter raised questions about it. He has asked the governor’s budget director to study the system, determine how it functions and assess the credibility of the data.
“One of the many items we will look at is the method of procurement and if it allows it to be transferred in its current form,” Hollingsworth said.
Mattson, a former legislative budget staffer, formed Spider Data Services and developed the software with Sherri Taylor, an information technology and computer systems expert. They are still owed $500,000 for developing the program.
“We recognize that the incoming legislative leaders have the right to set their own priorities, and we look forward to an opportunity to demonstrate the full capabilities of this powerful budget analysis system,” Mattson said in a statement.
Their contract with the Senate requires them to collect and post the information monthly to the Transparency 2.0 database. Spider Data Services has hired a vendor to host the servers, operating systems and other infrastructure needed to support the high speed network, according to an August status report filed with the Senate.
The Senate contract also required that Spider Data to train legislative staff to operate the program. Absent any direction from Senate leadership on how to progress with this requirement, Mattson and Taylor scheduled three webinars for Senate staff in late October so they would comply with the contract requirements.
Staff members of the House, Senate and governor’s office who spoke with the Herald/Times on background each said they had not seen the system but were convinced it duplicates the budgetary functions of the TransparencyFlorida.gov web site created by the Legislature and the contract search functions of the Facts.fldfs.com web site created by Atwater.
With Gaetz’s approval, the Herald/Times requested access to the system to compare its operation with the existing online transparency programs operated by the Legislature and Atwater.