Will anyone stand up for taxpayers of Connecticut and Bridgeport?
Now that Bridgeport’s illegal Board of Education has been removed and a democratically elected board has taken its place, perhaps someone – anyone – will begin to ask the important questions that need to be asked.
At the very top of the list is the growing controversy surrounding Bridgeport Superintendent of Schools, Paul Vallas’, decision to use a “no-bid” contract to buy new special education software from a company that he has done business with in the past.
Easy IEP was purchased as part of a larger contract after Team Vallas doctored a document seeking to bypass the laws and regulations governing Bridgeport’s required bidding process.
However, despite the fact that Vallas signed the contract on April 23, 2012, the promised conversion has yet to take place, and Bridgeport’s School System continues to utilize the earlier company’s software, at an undisclosed price.
The Easy IEP contract was signed, taxpayer funds were committed, and, as the contract makes clear in its Exhibit C1, the new system was supposed to be in place for the 2012-2013 school year. In fact, the contract requires that the “School System agrees to implement FES Services beginning April 2012,” and that the “School System agrees to implement the Cost Reporting Services in July 2012.”
No public agency would ever be allowed to get away with these types of violations.
Wait, What? readers will recall this situation. It was and continues to be a disturbing reminder of what happens when public officials inappropriately enter into no-bid contracts with companies that they are associated with.
When Vallas arrived in Bridgeport, he hired the Public Consulting Group (PCG), a company that has received millions of dollars in previous contracts thanks to Vallas.
Vallas explained in one of his early PowerPoint Presentations that, “PCG Group is auditing the district’s Medicaid reimbursement process. PCG has an outstanding reputation for assessing and improving the process in order to obtain optimal reimbursement for eligible students. Any additional revenue obtained by the district will be applied to offset the cost of out- of-district tuition for special education students.”
Weeks later, the PCG Group provided Vallas with their “audit,” and lo and behold, just as they had done in Philadelphia, the consulting company recommended that Bridgeport HIRE THEM to implement a Medicaid reimbursement project. And to sweeten the deal, PCG said they would provide Bridgeport with a special deal on their special education software, a program called Easy IEP.
The only issue was that Bridgeport already had a special education software package, called “Clarity,” to track and coordinate Bridgeport’s special education program. But that fact didn’t stop Vallas, who quickly dropped Clarity and signed a contract for Easy IEP.
Although Connecticut and Bridgeport laws and regulations require contracts over $7,500 to be put out to bid, Vallas simply by-passed those requirements.
In order to defend their action, Team Vallas submitted a “Justification for Sole Source Acquisition.” Their claim was that PCG’s product was so special and so unique that it wasn’t even worth soliciting bids from other companies.
However, it turns out that almost every point that Paul Vallas and his team used to rationalize skipping a competitive bidding process was false.
Vallas’ inappropriate use of a “no bid,” sole-source contract to purchase the Easy IEP software is now having a real and negative impact on taxpayers in Connecticut and Bridgeport. However, neither the Bridgeport Board of Education nor the media have investigated this contract or the other “no-bid” contracts that will cost Connecticut and Bridgeport taxpayers more than $13 million dollars.
Bridgeport’s Mayor Bill Finch claims that he, rather than the voters, should be allowed to choose the members of the Board of Education. If he were truly concerned about the waste of scarce resource,s he would be demanding an investigation of why his administration approved a no-bid contract signed by his hand-picked superintendent of schools, a contract that is now wasting precious Bridgeport and state tax dollars.
Mr. Mayor, it’s not to late.