The Orange County Board of Supervisors extended its contract with a company that provides phone services to jail inmates Tuesday, despite a scandal involving the improper recording of confidential phone calls to defense attorneys for three years.

Orange County officials had proposed a six-month extension for Global Tel Link’s contract, which was due to expire Nov. 24, so Texas-based Securus Technologies could take over with a no-bid contract.

Orange County Sheriff’s Department Executive Director Brian Wayt said Securus could have taken over sooner but six months was recommended in case there were “hiccups” in the transition.

“One company literally has to take phones off the walls and another company has to come in and put the phones in,” Wayt told City News Service.

The supervisors voted 3-1, however, to extend GTL’s contract for at least another year and to delegate authority to the sheriff to extend it another six months if necessary. Supervisor Shawn Nelson was the lone no vote and Supervisor Todd Spitzer was absent.

Supervisor Lisa Bartlett said she was “very nervous” about going with a no-bid contract, arguing that the other vendors in the industry have faced a variety of problems such as hacking and a class-action lawsuit.

“I don’t want to go from the frying pan into the fire,” Bartlett said. “I don’t want a rush to judgment and go with a sole source contract.”

Bartlett said she would rather give GTL the extra time while sheriff’s officials put together a bidding plan that would include an upgrade from phones to tablets for inmates.

“We’re switching technology and implementing a lot of great new features,” Bartlett said. “I think tablets are the way to go… Let’s get the process done right. We have one shot to get this right going forward.”

Supervisor Michelle Steel agreed.

“I’m very nervous about a sole source (contract) too,” she said. “I don’t want to bring in some company coming in and having more problems.”

Wayt said the sheriff’s department selected Securus for the no-bid contract until a request for proposal could be completed because the company has had success taking over new contracts in other jail systems the size of Orange County’s.

Nelson argued that despite any issues other vendors might have it’s better to go with them than GTL, which admitted in July that it had been improperly recording phone calls from inmates to their attorneys for three years. The company blamed it on a software upgrade that dropped attorneys from a do-not-record list.

Recording confidential calls from inmates to their attorneys is a potential constitutional violation that could lead to the dismissal of cases against the defendants. Some of the defendants whose calls were recorded in Orange County include some of the most violent, including one defendant charged with killing his girlfriend and their two infant sons.

“We know (GTL) failed us,” Nelson said. “They failed us horribly and put us in an incredible jeopardy… And even after they were caught they continue to fail to get to the core of the information we have requested.”

GTL “specifically did us wrong, and I just don’t reward that behavior,” Nelson said.

“What I know is (Securus) didn’t take advantage of us and specifically lie to us,” Nelson said.

Board Chairman Andrew Do noted that the sheriff was also contracting with Praeses, an IT management company, as a consultant to oversee the GTL contract and the request for proposals for a new vendor.

“GTL going forward, their operation will be monitored and will make sure they comply with the law,” Do said. “So we can feel more secure making this transition.”

The board’s action took place on the same day an evidentiary hearing is expected to be completed in the case against Josh Waring, the son of a former “Real Housewives of Orange County” cast member, who is seeking to have attempted murder charges against him dismissed due to outrageous governmental misconduct.

Three Orange County prosecutors were testifying Tuesday in Waring’s motion. Waring’s attorney, Joel Garson, has said that 11 of his phone calls with clients were recorded and listened to by law enforcement.

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