Never say Comptroller Peter V.R. Franchot doesn’t know when he’s beaten.
Franchot, who has been vocal on a number of issues during his tenure as the state’s tax collector and one of three members of the Board of Public Works, waved the proverbial white flag when it comes to one of his nemeses, namely Environmental Systems Research Institute.
ESRI came up before the board again Wednesday as part of a $20 million contract to provide geographic information systems software to the state. The company was one of five that will be part of that master contract. Franchot, before surrendering, referred to the company as “my old chestnut.”
“I’m perfectly willing to publicly announce that I have been fully defeated,” Franchot said. “This group apparently is indispensable to the state of Maryland. So ESRI in Redlands, California, congratulations, somehow you have managed to become something that we cannot get rid of.”
Franchot has frequently complained about sole-source contracts involving the company.
In 2011, the board, which was then chaired by Democratic Gov. Martin O’Malley, awarded ESRI a $3.8 million contract to provide similar services to the state. The company, which provided geographic information system software to Baltimore when O’Malley was mayor, was the only bidder.
The then-governor voted to extend that contract in 2014.
O’Malley was given nearly $150,000 from the company to give four speeches at the company in 2015.
The arrangement has drawn criticism from both Gov. Larry Hogan and Franchot, who has also railed against awarding single-bid contracts.
“This master list confirms what I’ve said before which is we did not need to depend on this group for single-bid contracts,” Franchot said of the award Wednesday to five companies, including ESRI.
But Franchot said he was done tilting with this particular adversary.
“I’m laying down my sword as far as ESRI, welcoming them into Maryland despite all of the past problems,” Franchot said.
The announcement met with some laughter from the audience as well as Lt. Gov. Boyd Rutherford, who chaired the meeting in place of Hogan, and Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp.
Rutherford called the surrender “very gracious.”
“I’m not sure who would accept it,” Rutherford said.