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3 TUSD officials on leave after bid-rigging probe

Citizen Staff Writer



The future of three high-ranking Tucson Unified School District administrators remains unknown after the state Attorney General’s Office filed a report saying district purchasing employees rigged bids and violated conflict-of-interest laws.

Chief Operations Officer Rudy Flores, who was technology assistant director during the period being investigated; Curriculum Director Lisa Long; and Technology Coordinator Ed Kowalczyk last week were put on paid administrative leave by TUSD Superintendent Elizabeth Celania-Fagen after she had an initial briefing from the state Attorney General’s Office.

A final decision on their job status will be made by Fagen, but it is not known when she will do it.

As part of a settlement agreement that will allow TUSD to avoid litigation, the state’s second largest school district will pay a penalty of $7,500 to the Attorney General’s Office as partial reimbursement for costs of the investigation, which started in 2006 at the request of the TUSD governing board.

The Attorney General’s Office, however, has filed a civil lawsuit against Flores and former TUSD technology director Guyton Campbell. It asks for $39,100 in penalties for procurement code violations.

TUSD officials on Friday could not say if TUSD would be involved in that case because Flores still is a district employee.

The investigation, which is complete, covered procurement practices from 2004 to the present.

The first part of the investigation examined actions by TUSD’s Technology and Telecommunications Services Department relating to vendors Trillion Partners Inc. of Austin, Texas; Tucson-based NVision Networking, Inc. and Montgomery Ala. based E-Rate Consulting, L.L.C.

Investigators said, among other findings, that Campbell had given preferential treatment to NVision, a firm whose owners, Dan Meyer and Lindsay Albisani, Campbell had known for several years before he took his TUSD job.

While NVision had been a TUSD vendor before Campbell worked there, it received $171,512 a year, on average, before Campbell arrived and $474,917 on average per year during Campbell’s first two years there, investigators said.

The probe later was expanded to look into allegations of conflicts of interest involving district employees and England-based Promethean, Inc. and Georgia-based Logical Choice Technologies, Inc., which supply interactive white boards for classrooms and related materials.

State Attorney General Terry Goddard said investigators concluded that:

• Campbell and Flores had improper contact and communication with Trillion before and during TUSD’s competitive purchasing process;

• TUSD extensively relied on consultants for technology products and spent more than $40,000 for consultants’ services that produced no results;

• Trillion and E-Rate Consulting conspired with each other and with TUSD employees to ensure each obtained a district contract, harming competition and violating state antitrust laws, the school procurement code and the rules of the federal E-Rate program (purchase of discounted telecommunications services, and not affiliated with E-Rate LLC);

• Flores, Campbell and other TUSD personnel skirted the school procurement code and district policies without consequences;

• Flores, Campbell and E-Rate Consulting split purchases in order to avoid competitive purchasing requirements;

• TUSD paid more than $342,000 to Logical Choice for goods and services with no competitive purchasing process; and

• TUSD personnel, including district leaders and key decision-makers, accepted gifts and gratuities from current and prospective vendors, including gift cards, meals and lodging at the J.W. Marriott Starr Pass resort.

The investigation said at least 10 district employees stayed at Starr Pass in rooms paid for by Promethean even though they lived in Tucson.

In addition to the $7,500 penalty, other requirements of the settlement are:

• TUSD and its employees will refrain from accepting gifts and gratuities from vendors and will strictly follow procurement laws and regulations;

• TUSD will retrain its employees in vendor relations, public records, competitive purchasing and procurement; and

• TUSD will obtain independent audits of its vendor relations and procurement practices every six months for the three-year term of the consent judgment issued as a result of the investigation.

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