Thursday, October 8, 2009


Government contractors tend to view the federal and state governments as cash-cows that need milking as often as possible. The same may be true of how TriData Corporation views its deal with the state of Virginia to write the Review Panel Report on the massacre at Virginia Tech.

There are serious moral and ethical questions about paying hundreds of thousands of dollars to a consulting firm to write a paper on the deaths of 32 people, while paying the victims’ families a paltry $100,000.00. Yet, that is what has happened. Equally disturbing is the circumstantial evidence that the state of Virginia and TriData are in a far too cozy relationship for the consulting firm to ever produce an objective report. The evidence for this coziness, while not overwhelming, nevertheless exists in the tone and content of the contractual agreements between the two.

Any time money enters into the equation, the door is opened to the worst of human characteristics—greed, manipulation, and perhaps downright dishonesty. I have experience with large government contractors who allow some of these characteristics to undermine the safety of our men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan. I know greed and manipulation when I see it; I see it in the relationship between TriData and the state of Virginia. When it comes to consulting firms, it is often the case that making money and improving the value of the firm’s stock trump all else—including truth, objective analysis, and at times, the lives of our soldiers, our students, and our children.

Remember, TriData has had at least one other contract with the state of Virginia and—I am sure—will be bidding for more. I would like to know if the Virginia Tech agreement with TriData was a no-bid arrangement. Did Governor Kaine’s office look at other qualified individuals or firms? Or, did Virginia’s government go with a firm with whom the state already had business relations?

For their part, I am sure the executives at TriData do not want to kill the cash-cow (Virginia) by writing a critical report. Indeed, a report that would seem to exonerate the state’s largest university and the school’s president from any wrong-doing might endear TriData to the power elite in Richmond. Even if TriData had not previously done business with the state, they might be angling for future contracts. I am not saying that TriData is in cahoots with the state of Virginia, but certainly that possibility exists.

It a generally accepted legal principle that when money exchanges hands in a business relationship the person or organization receiving the money owes primary allegiance to the person or organization paying the money. If that is true, how could TriData possibly be totally objective?

The state of Virginia has now agreed to pay the TriData Corporation more money to “make the factual narrative of the Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel (“Report”) as complete and accurate as possible.” According to a letter from Mark Rubin in the Office of the Governor (dated August 17, 2009) to Mr. Philip Schaenman, President of TriData, the state is willing to pay up to an additional $75,000.00 for revisions to the Report. If the original agreement is a precedent, that figure will go higher.

It is absurd to pay the company that did substandard work in the first place, another fee to fix exactly what they screwed up. If the first report wasn’t accurate, then TriData ought to be fined part of the original contract fee, rather rewarded with more work. (That letter appears at the end of this blog—Annex #1.)

The tone of the letter from Mr. Rubin to Mr. Schanenman is disquieting. For example, the salutation is personalized. Such informality is inappropriate. Mr. Rubin crosses through Mr. Shanenaman and writes in pen “Phil.” Then at the end of the letter, he crosses through his name and writes, “Mark.”

The seriousness of the issue at hand and the magnitude of the crime, coupled with the fact that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers’ dollars are being spent, dictate professional correspondence—not casualness. Such familiarity is inappropriate and in bad taste—particularly when the correspondence deals with the nation’s worst school shooting. I have taught business-style writing and have repeatedly cautioned against such familiarity because of what it implies.

If you look at the breakdown of expenses to be paid to TriData there are some troubling omissions. For example, what is a “Senior Communications & Media Specialist?’ Isn’t that a public relations officer? Why does TriData need to pay a public relations person $125.00 an hour and only pay a “Public Safety Specialist” $80.00 an hour? The report is all about public safety on our campuses, yet TriData and the state of Virginia apparently are willing to spend more on a spin-doctor than on a safety expert.

The letter lists a total of nine categories of TriData officers who will be involved in the report. The rate of pay is highly questionable. For example, the Corporate Program Director is being paid $230.00 an hour, why someone called a “Senior Specialty Consultant” is being paid $323.00. What is a “Senior Specialty Consultant” and why is he or she being paid so much money? Did the state agree to such a pay scale without asking for an explanation of who is getting this money and what specifically he or she will do to earn the money?

By the time TriData is through, the state will probably have paid the firm somewhere between $750,000.00 and $1 million. As a taxpayer, I would like to know the names of the individuals doing the work and their qualifications. I would also like to know how much each individual was paid, and how much TriData raked in as profit for writing the Report.

I know some of you reading this blog will think the next point is really anal-retentive, but it is—nevertheless—valid. The fifth paragraph of Rubin’s letter to Schaenman contains a mistake in the plural possessive. Anyone can make that mistake, but the letter was written by the Counselor to the Governor and proofed by a member or members of his staff. The letter, when referring to the September 26th meeting with the families in Richmond, contains the following, “victim’s families,” when it should read “victims’ families.” I know this a minor point, but remember lawyers spend years in college learning to parse words and mull over grammar and punctuation. The plural possessive in English is not a difficult concept to understand. The error is not earth-shaking, but it is consistent with the causal tone of the letter and apparent willingness of the governor’s office to let things slide.

Some of you may remember that a couple of years ago a major consulting firm had to forfeit several million dollars to the US government because of a comma error in a contract. Grammar and punctuation are very important to lawyers, and should be important to the Counselor to the Governor of Virginia.

The original agreement with TriData contains much of the same ambiguity that exists in the latest arrangement. For example, there is the same reference to a “Senior Specialty Consultant,” but this time he or she is being paid $400.00 an hour—specialty in what? It is no wonder that the cost of the initial report was so far over the original estimate. The state estimated the report would cost between $250,000.00 and $400,000.00, according to a letter from the governor’s office date April 26, 2007. That version of the Report ended up costing over $500,000.00. (The 2007 letter of agreement between Governor Kaine’s office and TriData appears at the end of this blog—Annex #2.)

The net result is that the Review Panel Report appears to be a political document designed to obscure the truth and even exonerate Virginia Tech from any wrong-doing. I would remind you that politics is often described as “the art of hiding from the electorate and populous, the information they most need to know.”


Office of the Governor

Mark E. Rubin
Counselor to the Governor

Mr. Philip Schaenman, President
TriData, division of System Planning Corporation
1000 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, Va. 22209

Dear Mr. Schaenman (this is crossed out and “Phil” is written in)

This letter will confirm the oral agreement of July 20, 2009 between the Commonwealth of Virginia and TriData, division of System Planning Corporation (TridData”) (sic.) to complete an independent analysis of relevant information in order to make the factual narrative of the Report of the Virginia Tech Review Panel (“Report”) as complete and accurate as possible.

Your primary objective will be to review the comments to the Report submitted from (survivors and) and family members of the victims of the April 16, 2007 tragedy and from the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, the newly discovered medical records of Seung Hui Cho and the April 16 document archive, the official archive of records, contained at hhp://

Based upon your analysis of the above you will prepare a written addendum to the Report (“Addendum”) indicating those items upon which there is: (i) some agreement and/or some reservations in changing the narrative; (ii) some agreement and/or some reservations in changing the narrative; and (iii) little or no agreement and/or factual basis for changing the narrative.

As your analysis progresses you may feel that it is necessary to conduct interviews with certain persons or organization to corroborate or clarify information. As you are aware, there currently exists ongoing litigation between various parties with respect to the events of April 16, 2007. Interviews with persons or organization that are parties to the litigation will be arranged throughout the interview. At the conclusion of the interview you will prepare a written summary of the interview which all parties to the interview should sign attesting to its accuracy and completeness.

It is anticipated that the Addendum will be completed no later than October 31, 2009. You agree that TriData personnel will be made available from time to time at the request of the Governor’s Office to answer questions and provide status reports including, but not limited to the September 26, 2009 meeting with the victim’s (sic.) families in Richmond.

TriData’s fee for the above services will be based upon the applicable standard government hourly rates for TriData personnel performing the services as follows:

--Corporate Program Director $230.00
--Deputy Program Director $150.00
--Senior Program Specialist $ 86.00
--Program Specialist $ 55.00
--Intern $ 40.00
--Senior Communications & Media Specialist $125.00
--Senior Public Safety specialist $137.00
--Public Safety Specialist $ 80.00
--Senior Specialty Consultant $323.00

TriData shall also be entitled to all reasonable out-of-pocket expenses. TriData will comply with the Commonwealth’s pronouncement rates with respect to travel and related incidental expenses. TriData’s total fees and expenses shall not exceed $75,000 without prior written approval of the Governor’s office.

TriData’s primary contract with the Governor’s Office will be Marc Follmer. If you have any questions concerning this matter, you should contact him directly at 804-225-4506.

If the foregoing fairy sets forth your understanding, please sign the enclosed copy of this letter in the space indicated and return it to my office at your earliest convenience.

(signed “Mark”)
Mark E. Rubin

Accepted and Agreed

(signed “Philip Schaenman”)
Philip Schaenman
TriData, division of System Planning Corporation



April 26, 2007

Lawrence Roberts
Counselor to the Governor

Mark E. Rubin
Senior Advisor to the Governor
And Deputy Counselor

Mr. Philip Schaenman, President
TriData, division of System Planning Corporation
100 Wilson Blvd.
Arlington, VA 22209

Dear Mr. Schaenman:

Col. Gerald Massengill, Chairman of the above-referenced Virginia Tech Review Panel (the “Panel”), has requested of Governor Kaine that the Commonwealth of Virginia retain TriData, division of System Planning Corporation (“TriData”), to assist the Panel in completing as independent analysis of the circumstances of the deadly events of April 16, 2007, at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University (“Virginia Tech”).

More specifically, the Panel has requested that TriData provide research and staff support for the Panel, as well as assisting the Panel with logistics related to the talks.

The Panel will be charged with developing a detailed factual analysis of the Virginia Tech tragedy and to offer recommendations in light of the facts and their experience and expertise. TriData will assist the Panel in collecting, organizing, and analyzing relevant information. TriData will also assist the Panel in developing conclusions and recommendations, as well as in the preparation of a written report containing the analysis and recommendations requested by the Governor.

TriData has provided the Commonwealth with a budget estimated of $250,000 to $400,000, pursuant to a standard time and materials process, for conducting its report and for the preparation and delivery of the final written report to the Governor.

The Commonwealth and TriData recognize that this estimate may be adjusted upward or downward after the full scope of the project has been determined and reviewed no less than monthly to determine what adjustments, if any, are appropriate.

TriData will submit invoices to the Commonwealth monthly and the Commonwealth agrees to pay such invoices with 30 days of receipt. TriData will not exceed to budget estimate without advance written approval of the Commonwealth and the Commonwealth will not pay invoices exceeding the budget estimate without such advance written approval of the Commonwealth.

TriData will bill the Commonwealth at System Planning Corporation’s standard government rates for various labor categories. The range of rate to be charged for these categories is as follows:

--Corporate Program Director $230.00
--Deputy Program Director $155.00
--Senior Program Specialist $ 80.00
--Program Specialist $ 55.00
--Intern $ 30.00
--Senior Communications & Media Specialist $125.00
--Senior Public Safety Specialist $120.00
--Public Safety Specialist $ 80.00
--Senior Specialty Consultant $400.00
--Senior Law Enforcement Consultant $ 75.00

Other charges will be billed to the Commonwealth at the cost with an administrative fee not to exceed 10% of the actual cost. With respect to travel expenses, TriData will comply with state procurement rates with respect to travel and related incidental expenses. These rates are posted on the Commonwealth’s web site.

The Chairman of the Panel will be responsible for confirming that the invoices presented by TriData are limited to approved charges and fairly reflect work authorized by the Panel.

This letter will confirm that the Commonwealth has approved TriData commencing research and support as of April 19, 2007, and shall be deemed an emergency procurement of services on behalf of the Commonwealth pursuant to Section 2.2-4303(F) of the Code of Virginia.

The basis for this emergency is the need for immediate announcement to the public that the Commonwealth is dealing affirmatively and aggressively with the commencement of an independent inquiry concerning the tragic murder of 32 people in West Ambler Johnson dormitory and Norris Hall on the Virginia Tech campus.

The selection of TriData is based on its experience in working with Col. Massengill with respect to a prior after-action review while he was Superintendent of the Virginia State Police and its direct, relevant experience described below.

TriData and its parent company System Planning Corporation (“SPC”) have extensive experience in management consulting emergency preparedness and response planning, and it conducting reviews and assessments. SPC/TriData reviewed the response to the Columbine High School shooting in Colorado in 1999 and prepared a report that was published by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)’s U>S> Fire Administration (USFA).

SPC and TriData previously provided the Commonwealth of Virginia with an assessment of the Commonwealth’s response to Hurricane Isabel in 2003 and reviewed circumstances involved in the alleged positive anthrax test at the Pentagon nearby Department of Defense office in 2005. In addition, SPC/TriData has performed studies and analyses for federal agencies, including the Depts. Of Justice and Homeland Security, FEMA and USFA, and more than 250 state and local agencies across the country.

It is anticipated that upon completion of the written report reference above that TriData will make personnel available to the Governor and the General Assembly to answer questions they may have to gain additional insight into the factual analysis and recommendations contained in the report.

Thank you for your time and attention to this matter. Please let me know if you have any questions or concerns. Otherwise, please countersign this letter below to indicate TriData’s acceptance of the terms set forth herein.


(signed “Lawrence Roberts”)
Lawrence Roberts


(signed Philip Schaenman)
Philip Schaenman, President
TriData, division of System Planning Corporation

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