During the first eight months that Paul Vallas worked as the Superintendent of the Recovery School District in New Orleans, he spent about $3 million on personal service contracts.
According to an investigation by the Times Picayune newspaper, most of those consultants had worked with Vallas when he was the CEO of the Philadelphia and Chicago schools systems.
The paper also discovered that “the vast majority of the RSD’s contracts were not competitively bid.”
At the time, however, Louisiana’s laws requiring that professional-service contracts be competitively bid were more lenient. Interestingly, after all the publicity, Louisiana changed its process to require far greater use of bidding procedures.
It’s not completely clear how much Vallas has spent here in Connecticut on no-bid contracts with consultants that he’s worked with in the past, but the number appears to be in the range of $1 million.
But what is clear is that Connecticut has very strict laws on competitive bidding and Paul Vallas has failed to follow those laws.
Connecticut law and Bridgeport’s Municipal Code require a process that is not hard to understand;
- “Competitive bidding shall be used for all purchases of goods and general services exceeding the sum of seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500.00.) (See C.G.S. § 7-148v, as amended)”
- However, the threshold is different for purchases of “special or professional services.”
- Contracts for “special or professional services” that are less than nine hundred ninety-nine dollars ($999.00) do not need to be put out to bid.
- Purchases of “special and professional services” costing between one thousand dollars ($1,000.00) and seven thousand four hundred ninety-nine dollars ($7,499.00), must go through an “a competitive quotation process.”
- Purchases of “special or professional services” that are in excess of seven thousand five hundred dollars ($7,500.00) but do not exceed twenty-four thousand nine hundred ninety-nine dollars ($24,999.00) must go through a “competitive proposal process.”
- And purchases of “special or professional services” over $25,000 require full competitive bidding.
Of the 14 professional services agreements that Team Vallas has revealed to date, 11 were in excess of $25,000 and another three were between $7,500 and $24,999.
Not one went through the required bidding process.
This issue has been raised repeatedly with no response or action from the people responsible for ensuring that the appropriate laws and regulations be followed.
Mayor Finch, Governor Malloy and Malloy’s Commissioner of Education, Stefan Pryor, all have the responsibility to ensure that public funds be properly used and bidding laws be followed.
In addition, considering that the vast majority of funds being used come from the state, the State Auditors, Attorney General, and potentially the State’s Attorney, may also have a legal obligation to get involved.
The question that is now hanging in the air is what happens when public officials don’t fulfill their legal obligations to stop the blatant disregard for bidding laws and requirements.