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Education

CMS Gets $475,000 Refund For Failed Panic Alarm System, Still Out At Least $655,000

CMS says the Centegix system repeatedly failed.
WFAE

Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools will get a $475,000 refund from the vendor for a panic alarm system that Superintendent Earnest Winston says never worked well.

The settlement of the district's lawsuit against the Atlanta-based Centegix means CMS still ended up paying $655,000 for a system the district will take down and box up — at its own expense.

CMS and Centegix each agreed to pay their own legal fees. CMS provided no information Friday about legal fees or charges to remove the system.

Winston's predecessor, Clayton Wilcox, agreed to pay Centegix $1.75 million for a system that was designed to let employees trigger alarms for events such as medical emergencies, fires or active shooters. The panic-alarm badges were supposed to identify the precise location of the employee and automatically notify administrators and law enforcement — even lock down the building if necessary.

CMS has told WFAE the purchase was done through 27 separate purchase orders, and said there was no contract to spell out how disputes over the performance of the system would be handled.

Winston became superintendent in August 2019, and demonstrated the system at a back-to-school news conference that year. It was one of several measures designed to beef up school security after a fatal shooting at Butler High in October 2018 and a spate of gun incidents that year.

In December 2019, after The Charlotte Observer raised questions about the system's performance, Winston said the system had never worked consistently. At that point CMS had paid $1.13 million, and Winston refused to pay the rest.

Centegix officials contended that the system worked as promised, said the company had worked extensively with CMS to train staff and fix glitches, and issued a statement saying Winston's criticism "appears to be politically motivated."

On Friday CMS provided a copy of the legal settlement, which says Centegix will pay to pick up the rejected CMS equipment and get it back to Georgia. No one admitted fault, and both parties issued a joint statement saying that "CMS and Centegix have come to a mutually agreeable resolution to our dispute. We are both pleased to have this matter behind us." The statement says neither will comment further.