Underwood queried vendor before Milligan took office: Update | Arkansas Blog

Monday, April 27, 2015

Underwood queried vendor before Milligan took office: Update

Posted By on Mon, Apr 27, 2015 at 12:29 PM

click to enlarge Gary Underwood,
  • Gary Underwood,
Minell J. Eberdt, whose tech company Magnet Media Solutions (doing business as Arkansasweb.com) had a contract with the state treasurer's office to provide web support through March 21, says that in December 2014, before Dennis Milligan took office as treasurer, Gary Underwood called her asking for account information. At the time, Underwood was Milligan's deputy clerk in Saline County circuit court. He is now Milligan's deputy chief information officer.

Underwood represented himself as being on staff of the treasurer's office, but Ebert was suspicious. She has shared a letter she wrote to then-Treasurer Charles Robinson the day after Underwood's call:

On December 17th, 2014 at 12:55 pm I received a phone call from Gary Underwood. He asked to speak to someone in customer accounts. I told him that I could help him and asked him what he needed.

He gave me his name and told me he was from the Arkansas Treasurer’s Office. He requested a meeting with someone from our office within the next week to discuss the account and any contract or services that we offer to the Treasurer’s office.

I asked him why I was receiving a phone call from him since my contact at the Treasurer’s office is Emma Willis. I asked if she was no longer involved in the account. He told me that there was a new Treasurer taking over on January 13th.

I told him that I would review the current hosting contract and email the info to him if he could provide me with an email address. The email address he gave me was wgu@pinnaclemedia.net.

He also proceeded to tell me that he has been in the “industry” for many years in our state; worked for the Governor’s office (don’t remember all the other resume listings he gave me) and had never heard of us. I told him that we had been in business for 18 years. He said that he was trying to get a handle on the “landscape” of services that we are providing.

I told him that I would email him some info on the account and we ended our call.

I became suspicious of him as soon as he gave me his email address. We have a company policy that we do not provide any account information from our clients until we are given a request in writing to discuss their information with someone else. This policy is in place for our clients’ security and privacy protection.

When I looked up the pinnaclemedia.net website I found that Gary Underwood is the owner of Pinnacle Communications and this is the info of his services on his website:

“Professional Video Production and Equipment Rental

Pinnacle Communications is a Christian based full service production company.

We are ready to serve all of your video and media needs. We are experienced in producing wedding videos, corporate productions, live events, and sports and training videos.”

I then placed a phone call to Emma Willis at the Arkansas Treasurer’s office to inform her of the phone call. She told me that she did not know who Gary Underwood was or what his business was. I told her that I would not be providing him with any account information.

As a vendor providing services to the state and doing our due diligence to protect our clients, I do not think that the phone call was ethical or lawful from Gary Underwood. At no time did he tell me that he was not an employee of the office nor tell me what his company was or what services he had been “contracted” to do. He was rude and condescending and as a citizen of the state of Arkansas and a long time business owner in this state I am greatly concerned about how the Arkansas Treasurer’s office transition has begun. Also, as far as my company is concerned the current Treasurer is Charles Robinson and his staff and we will continue to communicate through them until there is a formal handoff of leadership.

Just as a side note: I found on Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/pub/gary-underwood/3/a0b/375 that Gary Underwood is the current Deputy Clerk / Jury Coordinator for the Saline County Circuit Court and has been since 2011; ironically the same time period that the newly elected Treasurer Dennis Milligan has been at the same office.

After all the issues that this office has had to deal with in the last couple of years, I would think that Dennis Milligan might be a little more concerned with who he does business with and how they present themselves.

Minell Eberdt

As I reported yesterday, Milligan's office has contracted with Kurt Underwood's business, JNK Tactical, to redesign the office website and maintain it. Kurt Underwood is Gary Underwood's son. Grant Wallace, Milligan's assistant chief of staff, said today that the office took bids for the contract and JNK "provided the best bid for our needs."

The office did not have a vendor that provided these services previously, just a vendor that hosted the domain. We needed a vendor to redesign the website as well as update it in order to keep up with this medium as a method to communicate with the people of Arkansas. Furthermore, we needed updates to the site in order to fulfill a campaign promise to make the office more transparent by posting more of the reports and activity of the office online.

Wallace also said the JNK contract and the Arkansasweb.com contract were not redundant: He said Arkansasweb.com is the host of arkansas529.org. He also said the list of businesses he provided earlier as doing business with the treasurer's office included all contacted by the office, rather than all those that have contracts. I have asked for a list of the companies the office has contracted with.

As for transparency, the public might also appreciate a change in the office's policy that staff must delete all emails after 30 days.

UPDATE: Eberdt begs to differ with Wallace. She said her company did the design work and programming on the treasurer website. "We would have been able to easily update the existing website with any photos or content for a small fraction of what they paid." But her company was not invited to make a bid for services.

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