January 7, 2014 11:52 pm ET
Chicago Inspector General investigating company that employed school superintendent
General Douglas MacArthur once said, “Old soldiers never die, they just fade away.”
Along those same lines, I believe that old cops (like me) never die, because they stay inquisitive and deductive in order to dig for facts.
OK, so MacArthur’s line was catchier, but mine is true nonetheless…
I have to admit that my police instincts serve me well in my role as a writer who digs for the facts. Once again, I have managed to uncover some really dark details regarding the county and its attempt at a new “Dance step.”
You’ve heard of the electric slide? Now you’ll learn about the ethics slide.
Recently, I wrote about the interesting goings on with Baltimore County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Dance. Now, I’ll be writing about the next chapter in that saga.
To get yourself familiarized with the new issues, you might want to read the following little ditty right from the windy (and darn cold) city concerning the Inspector General’s look into the SUPES Academy—the same firm Dr. Dance worked for—concerning this look (one of many) into the academy’s business practices:
“The contract is by far the largest no-bid contract that CPS has entered into in at least five years. And the contract has raised suspicion because CEO Barbara Byrd-Bennett had a previous relationship with SUPES. Catalyst detailed those ties in this story, not long after the contract was quietly approved by the School Board.”
These contract issues are covered in the county code and are supposed to be listed on a website for all of us citizens to stay informed.
I don’t know about you, but I never saw any of this SUPES Academy information on any county site that I know of.
Now, for me, this seems to be a carryover (probably brought here from Chicago by the Arctic blast) to our county.
To start off our local search of the facts, check out this excerpt from the Sun (warning: some sugar coating may occur):
“But after meeting with Dance behind closed doors earlier this month, the school board said in a statement that it reviewed Dance’s contract and the school system’s ethics policy and found that “there is no indication that Dr. Dance’s performance as superintendent was in any way adversely impacted” by the consulting.”
Then, if that isn’t enough, we have this little ditty:
“Baltimore County school board President Lawrence Schmidt, who didn’t know about Dance’s consulting work until recently, said the panel plans to discuss the issue at its next meeting Tuesday. Because the issue involves a personnel matter, he said, the board would talk with Dance about it behind closed doors.”
Didn’t Charlie Rich sing that tune?
Now, you would think the school board would learn its lesson, since this is not the first F on its report card. Let me take you back to “another fine mess” the board made of things. Remember this little scandal?
“Baltimore County schools did not seek competitive bids for software contract; Company is owned by Hairston’s former employee in Ga.”
That tidbit is courtesy of an article published in the Sun.
Do you think the board might learn a lesson here? After all, isn’t school for learning?
Then again, maybe not.
Next on the “Dance card,” here is a name that has haunted the past, the present, and possibly the future—Fred Homan. Read what he said in 1996 involving no bid contracts which was a big problem for the county and came this policy change:
“This is going to be part of standard operating procedure, this gaining independent verification from the vendor,” Fred Homan, the county’s director of budget and finance, said yesterday. “It’s making sure your i’s are dotted and your t’s are crossed.”
Speaking of no bid contracts, this is what he Inspector General is investigating in Chicago. You remember Chicago, where the company that Dr. Dance worked for is facing the scrutiny of the Inspector General.
The quote from the article should have rung some bells (not signaling recess) with our school board, but apparently it didn’t.
And, for that, the school board gets its second F.
By the way, this is the law in Baltimore County regarding contracts over $25,000.
Request for Proposals (RFP)/ Formal Bids (Over $25,000):
· Used for Nonstandard commodities or complex service purchases
· If estimated to exceed $25,000, RFPs are advertised on the Purchasing website: http://www.baltimorecountymd.gov/Agencies/budfin/purchasing/currentsolicitations.html
· Pre-proposal conferences are used to clarify the scope of services, requirements and terms and conditions that may impact the bid. Attending pre-bid conferences is strongly encouraged.
· Questions are addressed at the pre-proposal conference. If necessary, the RFP will be revised and addenda will be posted on the County’s website.
· Responses must be written.
· Technical response and price proposals must be sealed separately and date/time stamped in the Purchasing Division before the due date/time of the opening
· Public opening of the Proposals:
o Proposers are identified as “responded”
o Technical responses and prices are NOT read
o Proposals are simply recorded as received.
· Proposals are evaluated by a pre-selected committee led by the buyer in Purchasing Award is based on quality factors including technical performance and price (“Best Value”)
So in order to look deeper into this bad report card, and why the “children”were naughty, I have filed one PIA regarding Dr. Dance’s actions. I also will file another one to inquire about Mr. Lawrence Schmidt, the president of the board and his actions.
In the essence of fairness, I will allow the board, the superintendent, and everyone involved to study for this test. After all, it is the school board who signs off on these nifty deals.
And, dear readers, let me assure you that, when I receive answers, they will be graded accordingly with no learning curve and no “No Child Left Behind” issues—just the cold hard facts.