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By Greg Gordon, McClatchy Washington Bureau

WASHINGTON — Three senior House Democrats on Tuesday asked the Department of Homeland Security’s internal watchdog to investigate allegations, raised in a McClatchy series, that Motorola’s contracting tactics have led state and local governments to squander millions of dollars on the company’s pricey two-way emergency radio systems.

“If the allegations in the McClatchy articles are true, millions of federal tax dollars may have been wasted, and millions more are at risk,” Reps. Henry Waxman and Anna Eshoo of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado wrote Inspector General John Roth.

“We therefore ask that you initiate an investigation to determine whether the abuses described in the McClatchy articles occurred and if so, whether (Homeland Security) grants were involved,” they wrote.

The three members of the House of Representatives urged Roth to propose changes “to prevent a recurrence of these abuses” if the department’s grants are found to have helped finance any of the contracts in question.

Waxman is the ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, while Eshoo and DeGette are the ranking minority members on the committee’s communications and technology subcommittee and the oversight and investigations subcommittee, respectively.

Motorola’s public safety arm, known as Motorola Solutions Inc. since the Illinois-based company split in two in 2011, has for years controlled an estimated 80 percent or more of the market for emergency communications equipment.

In seven stories published in March, McClatchy described how the company has used close relationships with state and local contracting officials, police and fire chiefs and county sheriffs, as well as an array of marketing strategies, to effectively lock in business in all but a smattering of public safety agencies in the nation’s 20 biggest cities. For many years, Motorola froze out rivals by embedding proprietary software in its equipment so it wouldn’t interact with other brands.

Motorola Solutions said in a statement that it “complied with applicable laws and regulations, and competes fairly for our customers’ business by offering them superior products and solutions.”

“We offer solutions and products that achieve cost savings for the taxpayer, improve safety for communities and enable quick implementation for local agencies,” the company said.

Motorola said that it has served public safety around the globe for more than 85 years, that it sells products that “enable seamless communications,” and that it is the company’s state-of-the-art technology “that has allowed us to maintain our customers’ loyalty.”

Photo via WikiCommons

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