Saturday, November 28, 2015

Attorney General won't join Ackerman investigation

The Attorney General's Office will not be investigating the decision of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to award a $7.5 million contract to a minority-owned firm despite the call to action by state Rep. Michael McGeehan.

Attorney General won't join Ackerman investigation


The Attorney General's Office will not be investigating the decision of Superintendent Arlene Ackerman to award a $7.5 million contract to a minority-owned firm despite the call to action by state Rep. Michael McGeehan. In a letter responding to McGeehan, dated Tuesday, the AG said they don't have the authority to pursue the matter.

Because the conduct involves the school district, any critical matters would fall within the jurisdiction of the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, the letter read.

"This office has no jurisdiction over the procurement or Whistleblower Law issues detailed in the materials you provided," read the letter, signed by Deputy Attorney General David Sumner.

Meanwhile, Acting Education Secretary Thomas Gluck has asked the Auditor General to help investigate after he said district officials failed to provide him with information he requested.

The district was given nearly two weeks to explain, among many things, how and why IBS Communication, based in Mt. Airy, got the job, how the district goes about cancelling a contract and how the project was funded. In his letter to the Bureau of School Audits sent Tuesday, Gluck said the district’s report failed to show how the project was considered an “emergency.”

When a district team decided going through a request for proposal and competitive bidding process would take too long, they contacted SDT, a “state-approved” vendor, who submitted a proposal for the project, the letter read. He said IBS, which installed security cameras inside South Philadelphia High last school year, was selected after Ackerman asked whether a minority business was involved in the selection process.

Last Wednesday, McGeehan, a Democrat from the Northeast, continued his criticism of Ackerman's handling of the emergency $7.5 million contract yesterday, calling on Attorney General Tom Corbett, who is also the governor-elect, to investigate. 

Also asked in a letter sent to Corbett, McGeehan asked for the office to extend protection under the state's whistle-blower law to six district employees who were suspended as part of an internal investigation into the contract.

Ackerman placed five staff members on a two-week, paid administrative leave Monday pending an inquiry conducted by an outside firm into "apparent inconsistencies in the distribution of prime contracts to vendors," and "questionable practices in other areas of business and facilities operations.

The controversy stems from an Inquirer report that Ackerman gave a contract to install surveillance cameras in 19 schools to IBS Communication Inc., a city-based black-owned business, after a white-owned suburban contractor began the work.

In a letter to the Department of Education, district counsel Michael Davis said that that company, Security and Data Technologies Inc., was never awarded the contract and had not completed any work.


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