Election foe worked for firm suing county clerk | TheUnion.com

Election foe worked for firm suing county clerk

Until about eight months ago, lawyer Barry Pruett represented a company that is suing Nevada County and Clerk-Recorder Gregory Diaz.

Now, Pruett is running against Diaz for the post in the June primary.

Pruett said Sunday he no longer is doing legal work for AtPac Inc., the Auburn firm suing Florida-based Aptitude Solutions, the county and Diaz for allegedly breaching a contract to provide recording software for the county.

Pruett’s name is not on the suit, but he said Sunday being involved on the periphery of the situation last year “put me in a unique situation to know what was going on, because what I saw during the course of my representation was wrongful conduct.”

After trying to solicit others to run againt Diaz, Pruett said he eventually felt compelled to run himself.

Pruett’s connection to AtPac ended shortly after he asked the county on AtPac’s behalf for documents in July 2009 related to the county’s 2008 decision to consider getting new software used for recording vital documents such as birth certificates and deeds of trust.

AtPac had done business with the Clerk-Recorder’s Office for almost 10 years prior to Diaz switching its recording system to a new one costing $229,000 from Aptitude Solutions in November 2008. At the time, Diaz said Aptitude Solutions offered upgraded services at a more efficient cost than other businesses that had bid on the project, including AtPac.

AtPac filed a federal lawsuit in Sacramento last week, claiming Diaz disclosed confidential information about its elections software to Aptitude Solutions prior to awarding Aptitude the new contract. The suit alleges Diaz shared AtPac’s trade secrets and copyrighted software with Aptitude during the bidding process, violating the federal Computer Fraud and Abuse Act.

Diaz was not available for comment Sunday, but he did speak about the issue at the Nov.18, 2008, Board of Supervisors meeting, where Pruett represented AtPac.

At that time, Diaz told board members he wanted the new software because AtPac’s did not automate many document handling processes, including some mandated by the state.

AtPac did not want to become certified with the state to deliver electronic documents, Diaz said, which caused him the time and expense to use third-party services to do so.

According to minutes from the meeting, available at MyNevadaCounty.com, Diaz told the board during the meeting that his office did not have a good working relationship with AtPac.

At that same meeting, Pruett alleged AtPac had not been notified when Diaz’s office put out requests for proposals for new software. Diaz replied he assumed the county purchasing office would contact AtPac because it was the current provider at the time.

That didn’t happen.

Pruett said in a written statement to the board that, by the time his firm heard about the requests, they had 15 days to respond, compared to 49 for the other bidders.

After Aptitude Solutions won the contract, Pruett said he counseled AtPac to sue the county. Its leaders hesitated, because the contract was relatively small compared to most others they had, and they feared the fallout, Pruett added.

Pruett now works in his own practice, and he said Sunday he had nothing to do with the filing or writing of the federal lawsuit.

“Politically, it would have been better if it had come out in April, right before the mail ballots go out, but it didn’t,” Pruett said. “I’m not involved in it.”

County Counsel Michael Jamison said Friday he was surprised by the lawsuit. His understanding was that the county and AtPac still were trying to negotiate a settlement in the matter, he said.

To contact Senior Staff Writer Dave Moller, e-mail dmoller@theunion.com or call (530) 477-4237.

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