Council Briefed on Failed Liquor Commission Software Contract

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Paula Tracy file photo

Members of the Executive Council and Gov. Chris Sununu take a break after meeting at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye last October. From left are councilors Russell Prescott, Gov. Sununu, Debora Pignatelli and from left standing are Councilors Mike Cryans, Andru Volinsky and Ted Gatsas.

– The state is looking for a new software vendor for the Liquor Commission after it quietly parted ways last month with a private company providing support.

The $26 million, 10-year contract, which was inked in 2016 with New York-based AlphaPeople did not work out. Both sides agreed to go their separate ways, with AlphaPeople taking $9.6 million and walking, said Charlie Arlinghaus, the commissioner of the state’s Department of Administrative Services.

The state will look for another firm to do the work now without litigation, and money is still available, Arlinghaus said.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky, D-Concord, a possible gubernatorial candidate who has in the past expressed concern about the operations of the Liquor Commission, asked for the briefing which was held just prior to the council’s regular meeting Wednesday at the Seacoast Science Center in Rye.

Volinsky said he was dismayed to learn “almost second-handedly” that the multi-million dollar contract failed and he questioned why the state could not do the work in-house.

“When I first started as councilor, I was told that the software contract was the key to the Liquor Commission being successful. Their direct mail program depended on it, their email program depended on it and we just found out almost second-handedly that the software program failed,” Volinsky said, adding he wanted answers.

Arlinghaus said that contracts are often fraught with difficulties, but this was one in which both sides agreed to part ways. AlphaPeople did not reply to requests for comment.

Republican Gov. Chris Sununu said he was pleased that there is no litigation involved. Sununu said there is still money left over that may allow for the state to find a new vendor to do the job without the state having to spend additional money.

There are several prospective vendors, Arlinghaus said, and officials said they hope to have more information in the next 90 days.

Executive Councilor Andru Volinsky discusses the failed Liquor Commission software contract. Paula Tracy video

Volinsky said the public has a right to judge how the Liquor Commission is doing and how the council is doing in oversight. The idea that no state department is capable of handling its own software needs is unacceptable and “probably untrue,” he said.

Sununu said the commission did the right thing by identifying the issue and he believes that the state will come out on top, without additional costs or litigation, with a better software product going forward.

Poet Laureate Nominated

Dr. Alexandria Peary of Londonderry has been nominated by Gov. Sununu to be the state poet laureate.

If confirmed, Peary will succeed Alice Fogel of Acworth for a term that expires in 2024. Peary said she has written four out of the five books she has published so far at a desk in the Granite State.

While he did not formally nominate him, in July Sununu abandoned his selection of Daniel Thomas Moran after being criticized for how he made the selection and after a sexually suggestive poem Moran wrote about former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice surfaced.

The governor praised the Seacoast Science Center for “really hands-on and innovative ways to teach science” over the past 25 years. It sees 90,000 visitors each year.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month and Sununu also offered a proclamation for awareness and outstanding work to protect the state from cyber attacks.

Gov. Sununu praises the way the failed contract was handled. Paula Tracy video

Commissioner Denis Goulet, director of the state Department of Information Technology noted: “All it takes is one click to shut down the city.”

But Sununu said that “we are learning….and getting into good practice.”

The council meeting began with some classical music pieces provided by the students of the Seacoast Academy of Music in North Hampton.

Maura McCann of Concord was nominated and confirmed to the new Council for Responsible Gaming. She is an employee of the Lottery Commission and works on marketing issues there.

Prior to the vote, two councilors expressed concern about the potential conflict, but Attorney General Gordon MacDonald assured the council that there are no statutes or rules that prohibit it because she would not benefit financially from the new appointment. There is no salary for the new post.

The vote passed with Volinsky casting the dissenting vote.

Executive Councilor Debora Pignatelli asked MacDonald whether there was a conflict, either real or perceived.

The only conflict, MacDonald said, would be if there was some pecuniary interest, which there is not in the new role.

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