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The Dripby Brew Editors8:11 pmFeb 6, 20130

Pratt lawsuit against mayor thrown out by judge

Judge calls Pratt’s complaint about VOIP phone bid “serious” but not “legally cognizable.”

A Circuit Court judge tonight dismissed a lawsuit filed by City Comptroller Joan Pratt over Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s plan to work with Digicon Corp. to install an Internet-based phone system for city employees.

“The stuff alleged in [the complaint] doesn’t give me any comfort that there is an actionable complaint,” Judge Pamela J. White said Wednesday evening after three hours of arguments, according to the Maryland Daily Record.

While calling the comptroller’s allegations that the city circumvented the competitive bidding process in contracting with Digicon “serious,” the judge said Pratt’s complaint is not “legally cognizable in this place at this time.”

“I have tried mightily to find something that should raise a problem and I cannot,” White said. “I must deal with the reality of actionable legal claims, and I can’t find it here.”

White also said she didn’t believe the comptroller “has any business suing the mayor and the City Council.”

The judge dismissed the suit with prejudice, meaning that Pratt cannot amend or refile the complaint.

City Solicitor George Nilson said he was pleased with Judge White’s decision. He had argued that under the city’s charter, a city employee cannot employ outside counsel unless the solicitor certifies that there is an irreconcilable conflict and the Board of Estimates concurs.

Pratt filed her private lawsuit in October claiming the administration circumvented the city’s bidding process in contracting with Rockville-based Digicon to install a Voice Over Internet Protocol (VOIP) phone system, and sued to prevent the city from proceeding with the contract.

The comptroller, whose office has jurisdiction over the municipal phone system, has repeatedly urged the Board of Estimates to approve a contract with IBM.

But the five-member board – controlled by Mayor Rawlings-Blake – rejected the IBM bid last July.

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