Another Contracting Fiasco in the Making for Gilbert Public Schools?

Every now and then, we respond to viewer requests with a post dedicated to them. Today’s post was promoted by a birdie’s chirp: “What’s in it for GPS Chief Financial Officer Jeff Gadd? I’m referring to the Mohave contract. Very bizarre last night. Maybe Westie can go down the rabbit hole.”

[Keyboard to Westie: Hold your nose! There’s a stench coming from that rabbit hole.]

Our birdie was wondering why, in November 2014, it suddenly was essential for the GPS Governing Board to approve a new $1.3 Million contract for new finance and human resources software. It was especially concerning that just the month before, in October 2014, the GPS Chief Financial Officer confessed that GPS had overspent by $15.3 Million and kept it a secret:

Why would the GPS finance dudes and top superintendent dudette suddenly come clean about this missing $15 Million? We’re sure it’s because they now want to get in front of the bad press that ultimately will explode when GPS once again demands a tax override and new bonds.

We were, of course, asking a rhetorical question then. There are more questions that beg for answers: Isn’t it strange that Gadd decided October 2014 was the right time to *confess* that $15 Million in cash is missing from GPS? And that the administration knew it all along? And admin didn’t tell the board? That’s why money started disappearing from the already published GPS budget a couple of months ago.

There’s still a Wild West attitude and plenty of fast-and-loose capers with public dollars that seek to evade oversight. Sometimes the truth can get in the way of professionalism in GPS, such as when Dr. K recreated the Purchasing Manager position and left the Internal Auditor position in Business Services vacant.

It took two board meetings to ram this new software project through. Board President Staci Burk asked CFO Jeff Gadd to provide the board copies of the underlying contract that GPS used through Mohave Educational Services (MES) Cooperative, Inc. (an entity through which school districts make big purchases without the regular bidding process).  President Burk kept asking for documentation of the RFP process – which ought to be on file.  CFO Gadd did everything he could to sidestep; he promised he had done his due diligence, etc.

Wrong! Due diligence is the board’s responsibility, and it’s a red flag of fraud that Jeff Gadd didn’t provide the simple documentation the board president repeatedly requested. No sireee, he gave the board something else: the generic contract presented to the board was the financing document from Kansas State Bank of Manhattan.  There is so much here that doesn’t pass the smell test.

Gadd’s refusal to provide documentation of the original bid just highlights the fact that until recently, GPS’s own purchasing coordinator, Crystal Korpan, was president of the MES Governing Board:

Being the MES board president put Crystal in a position where she could solicit a GPS purchase from MES and then sit on the MES board to approve the purchase without a formal bid. GPS really does have a problem with understanding what a smell test is, don’t you think? Consider this: MES makes a profit as the middle man. That money is not accountable to anyone because it is not subject to open records law.

Good Old Jeff Gadd DID NOT provide the Mohave contracts; only the contract numbers were on the agenda. Gadd said the information would be provided in 2 weeks at the next meeting, which meant, “You gotta pass this and we’ll get you the info later.”

Then two weeks later, the Mohave contract numbers were on the agenda again: Mohave contract 13-R-BFG-0127 with Baystone Government Finance. But the actual contract itself was NOT provided. Instead there was a vendor contract – a smidgen better than the meeting before – but the underlying Mohave contract was still missing in action. One of our birdies who was at the meeting chirped, “Two meetings ago, I heard them talking behind the podium they said that they would only need a sign off from the superintendent and one other board member.” It seems this was all just a formality.

Now factor into this equation that Mohave Educational Services Cooperative had been sued by the Arizona Attorney General for violating the State Procurement Code. Mohave Educational Services Cooperative admitted to that crime in a Court document known as a consent decree. Here’s what the Arizona Auditor General wrote after auditing MESC for three and a half years:

MESC has not followed procurement statutes and rules — Although MESC issues numerous contracts proclaimed to be based on procurement practices that adhere to the Arizona Procurement Code and the Arizona State Board of Education Procurement Rules, we found that MESC consistently failed to follow many of these rules. Specifically, MESC inappropriately used the more subjective request for proposal procurement process; did not properly evaluate vendor responses to those proposals; failed to make determinations of whether prices were fair and reasonable; and improperly awarded contracts to multiple vendors for the same products.

Dollars to donuts there was never an RFP and there was direct contact with the vendor to get the requirements identified so the vendor (voila!) was the best source. And yes, this all feels like the last time GPS bought million dollar software. As a previous GPS Superintendent was forced to explain:

CrossPointe was the student information system prior to our current system, Infinite Campus. The District did sue CrossPointe, but did not win the suit. Basically the lawsuit resulted in a draw because CrossPointe countersued the District.

Even with an RFP process back then, GPS screwed it up in ways that normal people could not have been predicted, ignoring their own staff recommendations and getting rid of an *inconvenient* professional staffer. We haven’t forgotten that the GPS superintendency sprung this lawsuit on a brand-new board back in January 2011. “Trust me” was the mantra back then.

Let’s connect the dots to show this is typical of how GPS Superintendent Christina Kishimoto has operated in the past. In Hartford, in her last year as superintendent, Good Old 7-0 Kishimoto accepted a bid from a charter school to take over one of the public schools. That did not go over very well with the public or with the Hartford board, as reported at the time:

Since the charter school makes claims to be “public,” the question was asked by a board member if any of this plan had gone out to bid through an RFP process. Kishimoto said that “initially” they looked at twenty designs, but did not put the project out to bid in “this round” because “it’s a replication model.” In other words, because Hartford has already accepted one Achievement First school, there is no recognized need from the Superintendent for this bidding process to be followed.

“Trust me” was Superintendent Christina Kishimoto’s mantra while she was in Hartford, CT. “No recognized need,” indeed! We’re already hearing those words from HRH 7-0 Kishimoto in Gilbert. We’re also seeing the same thing reported in Hartford during her tenure there:

In the end, the vote was predictable; some Hartford residents have suggested that this entire discussion was staged and that the decision was made long before the Board sat down before the public last week.

The more things change, the more they stay the same.  GPS: expect excess.

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