SAN ANGELO, TX – The City of San Angelo (COSA) has filed a lawsuit against a technology company called Spillman Technologies, Inc. Spillman is a Utah-based company that offers software solutions for police and fire departments across the country. However, since 2016, the city has claimed that the software provided by Spillman to the City of San Angelo has caused serious problems for the San Angelo Police and Fire Departments. Those problems have now cost the City $1.5 million dollars for the Purchase and License Agreement expenses. The City is seeking an additional $2.375 million to cover the cost to City taxpayers for the purchase of a replacement software system. The City is also seeking punitive damages, attorneys’ fees and court costs.
In early 2014, the City’s police department issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) for a “fully-integrated public safety software system to replace its aging, outdated software.” An RFP is defined as a type of bidding solicitation in which a company or organization announces that funding is available for a particular project or program. Companies can then place bids for the project’s completion. Interested in selling its dispatch and records system to the City, Spillman submitted a RFP Response. In its response, Spillman asserted various representations regarding its track record and qualifications, the City stated in the lawsuit.
Below are several claims made by Spillman, as published in the City's petition:
- Spillman has never been in litigation with a customer.
- In the company’s 30 years of operation, it has “an unprecedented 100% success rate for new system implementations.”
- Agency’s key implementation contact will be PMP-certified Project Manager, Mark Jensen.
- Spillman – not third party vendors – will provide all Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) software.
- With Spillman, agencies are able to operate with the assurance that no matter what the demand or circumstances, the system will remain fully functional and fully accessible.
- Qualified Spillman trainers will be onsite to teach San Angelo employees how to effectively use all Spillman applications, with specific emphasis on basic functionality and system administration.
Based on the company’s promises, the City chose Spillman over nine other bidders, and the City entered a Purchase and License Agreement with the new vendor, effective March 10, 2015. The system went live on June 22, 2016, and COSA made the final payment for installation to Spillman on December 5, 2016. However, since the system went live, Dispatch, Police and Firefighters have been plagued with never ending problems endangering not only the lives of the police officers and firefighters, but those of the public as well, the City claimed.
Broken Promises Cause Dangerous Situations
One of the main software systems Spillman sold to the City was its Computer-Aided Dispatch (CAD) software. The CAD software is an electronic way of dispatching, in this case, emergency services to various locations assisted by computer. Spillman continually reassured the City that its CAD software would 1) alert call takers of potential duplicate calls based on the location of the call; 2) recommend units for dispatch based on unit location; 3) will have CAD mapping functionality fully integrated with the Dispatch system. Furthermore, the system was to be fully equipped to include Automatic Vehicle Location (a way to track the location of all fleet units in real time through Global Positioning System (GPS)), automatically recommend units to be dispatched based on current proximity to the calls, and generate routes for units to follow when responding to calls.
However, despite assurances from Spillman during the selection process, the CAD system did not meet the City's expectations. The City said that during calls, police officers would lose access to the system while attempting to respond to events, and, on occasion, during pursuits. Due to the high-frequency of these occurrences, first responders have resorted to using their personal cell phones to provide mapping services while responding to emergencies. Furthermore, when on the job, police officers and firefighters rely on Dispatch to call in various incidents, but dispatchers who use the CAD system software have seen their CAD screens ‘freeze’ while trying to add calls, causing delays in dispatching police to emergencies. This has made the response times increase to unacceptable levels and have left City residents wait up to half an hour for a unit to arrive, when they could have responded within five minutes, the City stated.
Another issue for the City was first responders had to deal with mapping problems. The Spillman system is only capable of dispatching the closest geographically-available unit, rather than dispatching a unit with a shorter response time. Additionally, the CAD system was represented as software that will alert call takers of potential duplicate calls based on the location of the call.
However, the City claimed police and firefighters were in for a rude awakening when a man, on January 13, called a member of KLST/KSAN, asking him to get the cameras ready as he was about to have a police standoff near the intersection of 21st St. and Bradford St. Shortly thereafter, the City received another phone call alerting dispatch to a structure fire, but the dispatcher, due to the system software, did not realize the duplicate calls were reporting the separate incidents at the same address. Thus, Dispatch sent firefighters to the structure fire, but when the firefighters approached the house, a man with a rifle met them. Unarmed firefighters had to wait until after police officers removed the man with the firearm before extinguishing the fire (read our story here).
The City gave this as one of several examples where both first responders and lives of the City’s residents were put in danger by Spillman's inability to maintain its promises.
A Problematic Software Program
The City states Spillman Technologies continues to advertise its “unprecedented 100% success rate,” but despite its claims, many other cities have had similar issues to what San Angelo is now facing. In the City’s petition, it discloses that in “June 2014, Weld County, Colorado announced plans to scrap its Spillman system less than three years after it was implemented.” A Weld County Commissioner lamented, “I was really hoping that Spillman could do everything that they said it would do;” but due to the damages from Spillman, Weld County has been forced to spend up to $3 million dollars to purchase a new system.
Other townships dealing with persistent system failures are Hopatcong, Vernon, Hardyston, and Andover, New Jersey and Bloomington, Indiana.
According to court documents, employees at Spillman are not too pleased either; one anonymous user on Indeed.com wrote, “Under the new CEO direction, the company has grown sales revenue but has failed to invest in new technology. As a result, the company now has some of the most outdated technology in the industry…”
Another user wrote, “Spillman ignores requests from existing customers for product enhancements … Spillman understaffs product support with very low compensated employees with limited technical knowledge…”
The Last Straw
While still negotiating, the City was required to purchase an $80,000 server dedicated to run the new Spillman software. Before purchasing, the City double-checked with Spillman to see if the purchased server, an AIX server running on a UNIX operating system, could still be used 10 years from the purchase date. Spillman reassured the City that it would.
However, a customer message board post would reveal to the City that the company had been using them to make more money several years down the road, read city documents. The City discovered a post stated that Spillman would be ending AIX support in 2020. Spillman later explained that officials did not inform them “because [it was] still in the implementation phase.” Representatives added, “There will be no development in 2020, and if there are any bugs during 2020, they will most likely not be fixed.”
Without the support of the AIX server, the City would have had no choice but to buy a new compatible server, at a cost of $100,000 or more. By keeping this change hidden, the City claimed Spillman had positioned itself to make more money off San Angelo.
On January 30, 2017, San Angelo City Manager Daniel Valenzuela sent Spillman Technologies a formal Notice of Breach, in which he detailed the numerous problems the City has faced since its implementation of the software.
Wednesday afternoon, the City filed a formal lawsuit against Spillman in which they bring the following causes of action: Fraud/Fraudulent Inducement, Fraud by Non-Disclosure, Breach of Contract, Breach of Express Warranty.
The City further seeks to recover from Spillman all reasonable and necessary litigation expenses, as well as fees and costs incurred as the prevailing party in this action. The City also demands a trial by jury. Attorneys Todd J. Harlow and Christopher Littell are representing the City. The attorneys are from Dallas-based law firm Cowles & Thompson, P.C.
Despite this lawsuit, Spillman Technologies markets itself as reliable. In its Q4 of 2016 recap, posted on March 8, 2017, Spillman reported that 37 new agencies purchased Spillman’s software that will “help improve officer safety, efficiency, and service to the public.”
Below is a list of other complaints mentioned by the City in its Petition against Spillman:
- System trainers, who were not sufficiently trained, trained city employees with “pretend” software.
- Promised “written examinations” and “supervised practice exercises,” designed to “teach employees how to effectively use Spillman applications, never materialized.
- Spillman subcontracted to third party-vendors: Command Solutions, Accelerant Group, and LexisNexis.
- Promised Project Manager, Installation Manager, and System Engineer were never assigned to the project – causing bugs in the system and system malfunctions.
- System did not allow for unlimited number of total users to have concurrent access to the system at all times; the City had to resort to manually input data to comply with its reporting requirements.
- Promised E-Ticketing system was still in its early design stage and did not yet exist when sold to the City.
- Remote Support staff of Spillman never completed a Criminal Justice Information System background check, and still had access to sensitive data.
- A promised auditor in response to the “Notice of Breach” was found to be a senior Spillman sales executive.
LIVE! has reached out to Spillman's Executive Vice President of Sales and Marketing Joe Lunt via telephone and LinkedIn Thursday, but as of publication time, no one at Spillman has contacted LIVE! with a response.
Update 3/24/2017 at 3:10 p.m.
Spokeswoman for Spillman Technologies, which is now a part of Motorola Solutions, Chantal Montsion said today that since the issue is now in litigation, she has no comment.