Today’s Connecticut Post has an extraordinary article about Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s Superintendent of Schools. Unfortunately the Page One story is not on-line, but as soon as it is, you’ll be able to find a link here.
Wait, What? readers may recall two blog posts a few days ago that revealed that Paul Vallas had hired a number of consultants to help him in Bridgeport. Most, if not all of these people work for his private company, The Vallas Group, or have worked with him in his previous positions as the CEO of the Chicago, Philadelphia or New Orleans school systems. See: http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/08/02/will-no-one-stand-up-for-the-taxpayers-of-bridgeport/ and http://jonathanpelto.com/2012/07/31/paul-vallas-and-bridgeports-illegal-board-of-education-the-law-applies-to-you-too/
If these contracts are allowed to stand, “Team Vallas” will be costing Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers close to $1 million dollars.
In addition to hiring numerous consultants, Vallas has also signed nearly a dozen new contracts with vendors for various products.
Together, these contracts commit Bridgeport to nearly $12 million dollars in new expenditures over the next few years.
Introducing the issue, the Connecticut Post story notes, “when the state appointed city school board hired Paul Vallas as its interim schools superintendent last December, his job was to fix the district financially and academically and to fix it fast.”
The Connecticut Post goes on to add that over the past six months, Vallas “brought a group of staff, consultants and outside vendors with him… [a] team of independent contractors, who, in some cases, replaced existing central office staff.”
And, in nearly every case, the consultants and vendors Vallas hired have worked directly for or with him in the past. In fact, as noted, a number of the individuals he hired or retained actually work for Vallas’ private consulting business.
Vallas responded to the Connecticut Post by saying, “suffice to say, given the financial, operational and academic failures of the system, I think some changes were in order.”
What Vallas fails to address is that the issue isn’t whether “changes were in order” but whether he was following the laws and regulations that governed his actions.
As Wait, What? readers will recall, it became clear a few days ago that none of the twenty or so personal service agreements or contracts that Vallas has signed were put out to a competitive bid, despite the fact that state and local laws and regulations require that any contract in excess of $25,000 go through a full competitive bidding process.
Even contracts under $25,000 but over $7,500 must follow some type of competitive review.
In Vallas’ case, the vast major of contracts, at least 18 of the 20 or more contracts, required a competitive bid process and yet he failed to follow that required process in every single situation.
Vallas’ approach may be to simply dismiss the problem, but Connecticut’s citizens are well aware of what happens when elected officials are unwilling to follow the law.
Not only did a sitting governor head off to prison for violating Connecticut law, but a shockingly significant number of mayors have been sent to prison for engaging in corrupt and illegal activities…and a number of those crimes related to attempts to sidestep Connecticut’s competitive bidding requirements and direct contracts to particular individuals or companies.
When it comes to the sanctity of competitive bidding, the law in Connecticut could not be clearer.
Competitive bidding is required except in the most limited and special circumstances.
In the one known case where Paul Vallas used a sole source rationale to sidestep the competitive process, the documents that his office used to document their right to sole source the contract would have been more clear and more accurate had it been written by a five year old. Not only was the sole source rationale incoherent, but it was factually incorrect on nearly every point.
As comprehensive as today’s Connecticut Post article was (and everyone should make sure they read it), it failed to get to the critical question of Vallas’ attempt to direct numerous contracts to people who worked for his private company or particular people and vendors he has worked with previously.
The truth is that under the laws and regulations of Connecticut and the City of Bridgeport, Paul Vallas did not have the authority to sign the vast majority of these new contracts.
And if these contracts are deemed valid, Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers will be on the hook for almost $12 million dollars and counting. (This after Governor Malloy pushed through legislation providing a “forgivable loan” to the City of Bridgeport so they could cover a $3.5 million dollars budget deficit in their education budget.)
The question is this…
How is it possible that no one in Mayor Finch or Governor Malloy’s administrations stopped this abuse of power and what steps will they now take to ensure that Connecticut’s taxpayer’s aren’t the ones punished for Vallas’ inappropriate and potentially illegal activities.