Earlier this year, Stefan Pryor, Governor Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, used a series of no bid contracts to retain outside consultants to help him develop and implement Governor Malloy’s “education reform bill.”
More recently we learned that Paul Vallas, Bridgeport’s $229,000 interim Superintendent of Schools, signed multiple no-bid contracts to hire more than a dozen consultants, many of them who work for Vallas’ private consulting business, The Vallas Group.
The response from most public officials has been silence.
But Ken Dixon, the Connecticut Post reporter who first broke the story on Commissioner Pryor’s use of no-bid contracts, last spring, has now learned that when one of Pryor’s consultants tried to bill the State Education Resource Center for an additional $200,000 (on top of the $195,000 they were paid earlier) and the Connecticut State Auditors have ruled that the company, Leeds Global Partners, could not be paid, because their no-bid contract had expired.
Commissioner Pryor was able to by-pass Connecticut’s competitive bidding laws by instructing the State Education Resource Center (SERC) to contract with Leeds Global Partners (and other consultants), and then reimbursing SERC for the money they paid plus a “fee” for overseeing the contracts.
Although the contract between SERC and Leeds Global Partners expired on March 31, 2012, the company continued to work for Pryor and the State Department of Education and submitted an additional invoice for $200,000, which purportedly covered their consulting activities during April, May and June 2012.
According to Robert Ward, one of Connecticut’s State Auditors, the invoice could not be paid since there was no “active” contract with Leeds Global Partners. Ward told the Connecticut Post t that “Leeds is no longer doing work for the state and may be pursuing a Claims Commission proceeding to get paid.” (The process by which a company or individual can “sue” the state for money.)
Apparently there is some confusion as to whether the State Department tried to extend the contract with Leeds and why Leeds continued to work after their contract had expired.
In classic fashion, the Connecticut Post’s Ken Dixon adds that Jonathan Gyurka, the lead partner at Leeds Global Partners, “did not return a request for comment.”
Commissioner of Education Pryor and the Department of Education spent about half a million dollars in no-bid contracts before the issue first became public in April. After that point, the Department of Education said that they would be using a competitive bid process for all future contracts.
Meanwhile, in Bridgeport, Paul Vallas has signed about $1 million in no-bid contracts with various consultants and nearly $12 million in no-bid contracts with various computer software companies. To date, Vallas has not said whether he will or will not start following competitive bidding requirements.
The State Board of Education will be holding a regular meeting today, and both Commissioner Pryor and Superintendent Vallas are on the agenda and schedule to report on their various activities.
We will assume that neither of them will address their extensive efforts to get around state and local bidding laws and regulations, but if they do, you’ll hear about it here.
You can find the latest Connecticut Post story here:
And earlier Wait, What? coverage of Pryor’s no-bid activities here: