September 2, 2014

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City’s relationship with software company crashes

LORAIN — Have you tried turning it off and on?

When Lorain Municipal Court computer software went down for two hours Dec. 3, it wasn’t a typical glitch solved with the standard suggestion from IT departments far and wide to restart the machine

Instead, access was denied by software provider Henschen and Associates, according to a temporary restraining order request filed Friday in the Lorain County Court of Common Pleas by the city and court against the Bowling Green-based company.

Henschen demanded $2,487 and threatened a January shutdown if it is not paid $2,000 per month, according to R. J. Budway, a Lorain assistant law director. The suit said Henschen was paid $5,000 after the Dec. 3 shutdown. Budway said Henschen is paid up to $5,000 annually by the city.

“It’s preposterous that they now want up to $2,000 per month to let us use the system that we’ve already paid for and have a maintenance agreement on,” he said. “There’s nothing in any of the contracts or maintenance agreements about paying them $2,000 per month.”

Bud Henschen, company president, didn’t return a call Friday, but Budway said Henschen is mad about the city court switching to a different vendor. A shutdown also occurred Aug. 1 until the court paid Henschen $20.

It decided to go with AMCAD, a Herndon, Va.-based company whose website said it has more than 1,000 government customers in 38 states. Budway said the change was made because AMCAD could provide paperless service and Henschen couldn’t. The court has used Henschen since 1998 to provide the software for the court docket.

Budway said the switch is expected in the next couple of months.

“It’s hard to accept the fact that our long time relationship is nearing an end,” Bud Henschen wrote in a Jan. 13 letter to Judge Thomas Elwell, Judge Mark Mihok and Court Clerk Lori Maiorana. Henschen thanked them for their service but also delivered a warning.

Henschen wrote that the company would do “everything possible” for a “quick and smooth transition,” but also warned that his company’s contract with the court forbids obtaining the services of another vendor to modify Henschen software without his company’s approval. He said doing so constituted breach of contract “and may result in action being taken to protect our company’s copyright and trade secrets.”

In a Sept. 27 letter, Henschen questioned why the transition has taken nine months for a conversion he said usually takes 90 days.

“We have heard through the ‘grapevine’ that AMCAD’s system is not totally Ohio compliant and not fully developed or functional,” he wrote. “You may want to reconsider leaving Henschen’s Muncipal Court system.”

Henschen also again warned about copyright infringement.

Judge Christopher Rothgery granted the restraining order and set a Jan. 7 court date, according to court documents. The ruling said the city, court and public would suffer harm without the order and the city and court have demonstrated a “substantial likelihood of success” in winning the case.

Contact Evan Goodenow at 329-7129 or egoodenow@chroniclet.com.