GPS: Still Playing Contracting Games With Taxpayer Money

Westie was concerned when a vendor spoke up at a recent board meeting about some kind of hinkyness with a contract award. The response from Assistant Superintendent for Business Services Clyde Dangerfield, Esquire, was that there’s a process the vendor can use to challenge the award.

Knowing how GPS follows “processes” and “laws,” we thought we’d check into this. We’ve long heard rumors about no-bid contracts and “preferred” vendors in GPS. We found that former superintendents from all over the valley have started companies to “serve” school districts. The amount of money flying out at the district level to these buddies’ companies is enough to make your head spin. How much better it would be if we could get on top of those questionable contracting issues and get more money to the kids and their education!

Genuine oversight of contracts is necessary for so many reasons; genuine oversight of medical billing should be a special interest: 

Rising health insurance costs and associated fraud is a multibillion dollar concern. Just as you protect your own health with an annual checkup, be sure to take care of your district’s health care expenses. Board members may find that a yearly comprehensive health insurance contract review may provide opportunities to cut costs for the district and for taxpayers.

Some districts hire third-party administrators to manage the benefit program on behalf of the district. These administrators are experts in processing claims and managing insurance-related costs. They can review all hospital bills for calculation errors, medical doctor authorizations, double billing, and other potential mistakes because such services incur additional costs. However, these are the most fertile areas for insurance fraud and overpayments. Additional monitoring may reap long term savings for the district. As costs rise for insurance companies, the increases are passed along in the district’s next premium notice. Spending to reduce fraud and errors will save the district money in long-term insurance costs.

Here’s what really happens in Gilbert Public Schools: a former superintendent now is the GPS vendor for medical billing services. This vendor apparently had the contract for a few years, and the GPS superintendency didn’t especially like it when a new board member asked in 2011 to send that contract out to bid for a change. Other vendors came in with all kinds of ideas for saving the district some money with this service. Well, GPS formed an internal committee, made up a selection matrix to accomplish what they set out to do in the first place, and then awarded the former superintendent’s company the highest points for “longest relationship with the district,” which is code speak for “gut check.” That gut check made it possible for GPS to “select” the preferred bid, which seems to be what they set out to do in the first place.

When the Good Old Boys evaluated the bid, GPS former superintendent’s company won. Birdies chirped to us that one of the non-selected companies said they could bring more revenue to the district and would charge a contingency (percentage of what they brought in) and had brought in revenue for other school districts that way. With that assurance and track record, there was little, if any, risk associated with GPS changing vendors. But, it was just more business as usual in Gilbert Public Schools, so the former superintendent never really had any competition. BTW for future reference, GOBs, it was pretty obvious what was going on.

This is one example of many, many similar stories regarding vendors that we’ve heard. People also tell us that in the past, board members didn’t ask a single question regarding millions of dollars in contracts. They just blindly trusted whatever the supremes in the superintendency proposed at the last minute. (How many times have we all heard GPS admins saying at board meetings, “You have to approve this TONIGHT, or else dire things will happen…?”)

[Keyboard to Westie: Here’s a secret: one of the lawyers for Gilbert Public Schools recently bragged that the board would rubber stamp anything s/he recommended. Do you think that lawyer is infected with hubris?]

[Westie to Keyboard: No secret, common knowledge! We’re going to be posting about the famous GPS gut check theory of management in coming weeks. That theory works best when the governing board is filled with compliant personalities, i.e. rubber stampers, clueless, eager to please, allergic to hard work … not like some members of THIS board serving now. The GOBs see them as thorns in their sides and complain loudly to their acolytes.]

With best practices widely available. GPS continues with business as usual, which generally is NOT a best practice. Here’s a special concern: employees of Gilbert Public Schools who have Health Savings Accounts may want to be really, really careful this year. We hear that Human Resources is making it much more difficult than usual to take money out of those accounts. Why? Maybe someone in GPS or in HR has figured out that if money is left in those accounts, it can “revert” to someone other than the original owner of the account, you know, the person who put that money in the account in the first place. They do the same sort of hinky stuff with vacation days, sick days and the like when an employee leaves — they just sort of make something up that’s a whole lot less than what used to show on your pay stub. Don’t bother asking how they computed whatever the number is. It’s doubtful you will get a straight answer. Don’t bother asking where the money goes, either.

[Keyboard: You can thank Gilbert Education Association’s “negotiating” prowess for contributing to this sorry state of affairs.]

Back to Health Savings Accounts: Be careful if you get a lot of questions about why you want to withdraw money from your own account for your own healthcare purposes. HR is getting really nosy, we hear. It sure sounds like they want to know a lot about why you need healthcare – even though that should be HIPAA protected private information – perhaps to winnow out employees who might be costing the district the most. Or it could be a tactic to find out information associated with the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act (GINA)This law protects Americans against discrimination based on their genetic information when it comes to health insurance and employment.  The bill paves the way for people to take full advantage of the promise of personalized medicine without fear of discrimination. Of course, this is Gilbert Public Schools. Perhaps they see GINA as a roadmap or a how-to manual.

If you should need to ask your supervisor for an accommodation under the Americans with Disabilities Act, be very wary if the first thing that supervisor does is tell you that you must sign a form to let GPS get copies of your medical records. That is NOT how the system is supposed to work. But this is Gilbert Public Schools (you know the rest of the saying). If you run into this situation, BECOME A BIRDIE! We’ll tell you what is supposed to happen. If you need an accommodation, don’t accept the usual GPS BS, which generally leads to losing your job. It’s a feature, not a bug.

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