Rhonda Cook is reporting that a Cobb County grand jury indicted former DeKalb County Superior Court Judge Cynthia Becker today on charges that she lied to state investigators looking into her handling of the 2013 sentencing of DeKalb’s one-time school Superintendent Crawford Lewis.
“Corruption in DeKalb County is rampant” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Jeffrey Davis in federal court. Earlier this week, Mark Niesse reported on John Boyer, the husband of former DeKalb County Commissioner Elaine Boyer, who was sentenced Wednesday to serve a year and a day in a federal prison camp for an $85,000 kickback scheme.
Mike Bowers, former Attorney General of Georgia and Richard Hyde, chief investigator for the state Judicial Qualifications Commission, wrote a letter to Lee May calling DeKalb County Government “Rotten to the Core.”
Last week, Interim CEO Lee May talked about the ongoing corruption investigation on WABE’s “A Closer Look”. Commissioner Nancy Jester responded this week on WABE’s “A Closer Look”.
The following is an excerpt from that interview with Rose Scott and Denis O’Hayer. Denis O’Hayer – The interim CEO set a deadline for a week from today for the investigators, Mike Bowers and Richard Hyde, to submit the report and there’s currently no funding for it to continue beyond that. When he was here last week, he insisted that all that doesn’t necessarily mean the investigation it is suddenly going to end next week. Recording of last week’s interview with Interim CEO Lee May,
“Lee May – I know people are reading into everything, saying I’m cutting it off and I’m firing them. They’re not being cut off, they’re not being fired. The executive order said after 120 days we will get a detailed report. I’m sticking to what I said over 4 months ago. Denis O’Hayer – So it could continue? Lee May – There are possibilities there. I’m not saying that it will continue. I’m saying this will be the beginning of us implementing some things to protect the county.”
Denis O’Hayer – Doesn’t that give you at least some confidence that if the investigators report shows evidence of serious ongoing problems Mr May will push for the money to continue?
Commissioner Nancy Jester – I think the statements here were certainly an effort to walk back a previous tone he previously cast out there. He was strident before and now he is saying “whoa” let me back off and we’ll see what’s in the report. Let me correct one thing, Mr. Bowers and Mr. Hyde have made it perfectly clear that the deadline is October 6th. I look forward to their report very much. Rose Scott – Commissioner Jester, you said you thought Mr May was nervous about the probe and in your words saying “it was too close to something”, “something that he’s uncomfortable with.” Those are your exact words. Without any evidence but yet the investigators are even looking at Interim CEO May, why would you say that? Why make the charge that maybe he’s nervous or uncomfortable about something? One could argue that’s a deliberate charge that he’s doing something correct. Nancy Jester – Again, I await all the information. But, we certainly know, it’s already come out the irregularities with fixing the plumbing at his house and the $4,000 check that remains unsolved that he said did not receive but was made payable to him by a contractor that did work for the county and later got a contract.
I don’t know if any of that will be discussed in the probe of the investigative report or if that is something that is now under consideration by law enforcement. And I don’t know where that stands. But that is not in question, that’s a fact. That’s been documented and reported on so I don’t know is that something he’s uncomfortable with? Is there something else? Are there people in the administration that he’s uncomfortable with what’s going to happen? I don’t know, I’ll leave that to him, but it makes suggestions. Denis O’Hayer – Why hint that he’s too close to something or nervous when we haven’t even seen the report yet? Nancy Jester – We do know about that check, that’s documented. That’s not been fully reconciled publicly. I don’t know the end result of that. Denis O’Hayer – He said he never received that money and whoever wrote that check had nothing to do with him. Maybe the report will sort some of that out, which brings up the question, “Why not wait for the report?” Nancy Jester – I am waiting for the report. When a Former Attorney General and the Chief Investigator for the Judicial Qualifications Commission of the state of Georgia, two men with sterling reputations, come out and they write that letter. They are serious men, and you have to take them incredibly seriously and I do.
I though the tone of the county’s CEO, after that letter was released, was not serious enough. It did not take those allegations written by these two men very seriously and they are serious men indeed. Rose Scott – What did you think about the tone of the letter from Mike Bowers? That was pretty charged too. He said from the top to the bottom, which could include all the Commissioners as well as Lee May. So what was your reaction to the tone of that letter? Nancy Jester – I thought that letter needed to be taken seriously. I thought it was a serious tone. Again these men have credibility. There are people in jail right now from the Atlanta cheating scandal because of the work they did. They are serious people. I don’t think they’re prone to hyperbole. So, I don’t take them as being over the top in that letter. I think that they are going to back up everything they wrote in that letter, because they have done that before when they have investigated things. They’ve done a great job and I look forward to seeing that on October 6. Listen to the complete interview here >>
DeKalb Schools Director of Human Resources until 2013
Dr. Robert Tucker
DeKalb Schools Human Resources Personnel until 2013
Dr. David Francoeur
DeKalb Schools Assoc. Superintendent of Human Resources 10+ years ago
DeKalb Schools Special Education Director until 2012
Last month when asked about these no bid contracts given to our friends and former DeKalb Schools HR administrators, Dr. Ward-Smith replied, “these programs have provided a valuable service to the students of DCSD. Additionally, please note [district policy] DJE (regarding purchasing ethics) ensure that contracts are entered into appropriately.”
Hoping we finally bid this out, I inquired into the RFP process for this contract. Dr. Ward-Smith responded, “The initial RFP was cancelled and therefore has no bearing on the subsequent selection process. The District requested a quote for professional services per Policy DJE. [A list of questions] was sent to: Global Teachers Inc., In-Talage Inc., and Unique Services.”
(Note: As stated earlier, neither the quote or answers to those questions has been provided to the board.)
I’m quite concerned about the administration’s understanding of how the bidding process of contracts works. Policy DJE states “Purchases or contracts of with a total estimated cost of $100,000.00 or more shall be awarded through a written competitive sealed bid process“. The district, however, cannot simply invite their three best friends to bid on a contract and ignore everyone else. The district cannot maintain that there are no other providers for this service if they have not engaged in a solicitation by formally putting out an Invitation To Bid (ITB). Asking a few of your friends to give a quote for services does not qualify as a “competitive sealed bid process” pursuant to Policy DJE. Therefore, approving this procurement of services is a flagrant violation of policy DJE and should be rejected as such. QED. It shouldn’t even be coming before the board again in this fashion. Is the school system unaware of the procurement malfeasance that was exposed during the recent trial of CEO Ellis leading to his conviction?
In addition to giving millions in contracts to our friends in the HR department, I’m also concerned about violating federal H1B regulations. When asked if U.S. citizens would be preferable to foreign national teachers, Dr. Ward-Smith replied, “The District is seeking highly quality educators regardless of their nationality.” However, the cancelled RFP states, “(DCSD) is seeking proposals from highly qualified and capable offerors engaged in the business of providing international (foreign national) teachers”. Apparently, the cancelled RFP was written to favor the procurement of international teachers. That seems, prima facie, as evidence that DeKalb is uninterested in first seeking teachers for the good ol’ U.S.A.
The new superintendent has been on the job for a month and everybody is looking for telltale signs of what to expect in the next chapter in DeKalb Schools. This agenda item perpetuates the way DeKalb has done business for too long.
UPDATE – 08/07/2015
At the 8/3 Board Meeting Chief Legal Officer, Michael Walker, said, “The provisions of DJE are Part III – Subsection B.4. That contemplates a non competitive selection process for professional services.” Question – (Stan Jester) Please explain how Part III – Subsection B.4 contemplates a “non competitive selection pro-cess”. I do not believe it contemplates a “non competitive selection process” for following reasons:
1) Subsection B.4 is under “Competitive Selection”. The competitive selection process as described in Subsection B still apply.
2) Subsection C.4 lists “Exceptions To Competitive Select” and the reasons in Subsection B.4 are not one of them.
3) You said Subsection B.4 contemplates “non competitive selection”. It does not. It contemplates not using “competitive bidding” as the sole reason for awarding contracts. Answer – (Michael Walker) I concur that Policy DJE(III)(B)(4) does appear under the heading “Competitive Selection.” As general rule, alt-hough headings and titles contained in laws can provide some interpretive aid as to the meaning of the actual law, they cannot limit the plain meaning of the text of the law. The plain language of subsection (III)(B)(1), for example, is clear: “Purchases or contracts with a total estimated cost of $5,000.00 or less shall be made at the discretion of the District.” Even though this provision also falls under the heading “Competitive Selection,” the plain language of the text provides complete discretion for purchases under the threshold amount. No competition is expressly required, despite the location of this provision under the “Competitive Selection.” Similarly, the plain language of subsection (III)(B)(4) provides that professional services contracts “shall be awarded in the manner best suited to allowing a full assessment of professional abilities and other relevant criteria, while also ensuring an open and fair selection process that engenders public confidence.” The self-contained provi-sions of subsection (III)(B)(4) are clear, and although the heading “Competitive Selection” may be deemed to provide interpretive aid as to the meaning of subsection (III)(B)(4), it cannot limit the plain meaning of the text. Question 2: (Stan Jester) What Subsection B.4 says is that competitive bidding may not be the “best manner”, but a “full assessment” as part of the competitive selection process which includes Subsection B.3 “written competitive sealed bid”. Please refer to Mr. Brantley and/or his action items on how to conduct a “full assessment” using the competitive selection process in conjunction with “written competitive sealed bids”. What is the district’s position/comment on that? Following the cancellation of RFP 16-478, a less formalized but no less open and fair process was used to select a provider for international teachers, pursuant to the following provisions of DCSD Policy DJE: Policy DJE(II)(B)(3) defines “professional services” as services that require, in pertinent part, “The exercise of specialized skill, knowledge, creativity, or technical abilities. Professional services typically are better suited to a qualitative or subjective method of assessment, rather than a rigidly quantitative or objective method of assessment.” Policy DJE expressly includes “recruiters” as an example of profes-sional services. Policy DJE(III)(B)(4) provides, “Contracts for professional services, as defined above, shall be awarded in the manner best suited to allowing a full assessment of professional abilities and other relevant criteria, while also ensuring an open and fair selection process that engenders public confidence. Competitive bidding seldom will be the best method for selecting professional services.” As the policy language reflects, professional services are typically better suited to a qualitative or subjective method of assessment, rather than a rigidly quantitative or objective method of assessment. Accordingly, formalized competitive bidding seldom will be the best method for selecting professional services.Latest Q&A regarding the contract with IN-TALAGE (07/31/2015) Q1. In the agenda item, please use the full formal name of the vendor (i.e.: Intalage, Inc. or Global Teachers Re-search, Inc.). In-Talage Inc. Q2. There are no supporting documents attached to the agenda item on eBoards. Please attach the following documents to the eBoards agenda item:
· The contract/agreement with the vendors
· Responses to RFP/ITB
· Vendor evaluation/rubric results The initial RFP was cancelled and therefore has no bearing on the subsequent selection process. The District re-quested a quote for professional services per Policy DJE. The following information was sent to: Global Teachers Inc., In-Talage Inc., and Unique Services. See the questions listed in Q4. Q3. Please provide the vendor file information for Intalage, Inc. and Global Teachers Research, Inc. Intalage: The vendor profile is in CrossPointe. As of 7/20/2015 there were no records found through the System for Award Management regarding debarment. We have a W-9 on file; no immigration and security documents currently on file. Global: As of 06/25/2015 there were no records found through the System For Award Management regarding debarment. We have a suspension and debarment certification on file with RFP. We have immigration and security certification with a contractor affidavit on file with RFP. Q4. What standards did you use to evaluate the quality of Intalage, Inc. and the other vendor(s)? We invited each company to respond to the questions below. We considered the responsive information as well as pricing. Given the significant need for the teachers, and based on pricing and a 10+ year history with In-Talage, Inc. without concerns regarding immigrations or employment practices, it was determined that engaging In-Talage, Inc. was in the best interest of the students at this time to ensure to the greatest extent possible adequate staffing. 1. What experience does your company have in providing international (foreign national) teachers for school dis-tricts of a similar size and scope as DCSD? 2. How does your company plan to maintain staffing levels of qualified teachers to fulfill the contract obligations? 3. Has your company, or any past or present agent, employee, or officer of your company ever been the subject of an investigation, inquiry, or other review by and federal, state, or local agency concerning practices related to immi-gration, labor or employment laws? If so, provide a detailed description of the matter including the resolution, if any. 4. If your company, or any past or present agent, or officer of your company, has ever been fined and other-wise sanctioned in any way by any federal, state, or local agency. If so, please describe in detail the circum-stances of the matter. 5. If your company, or any past or present agent, or officer of your company, has ever been sued or been named as a party in any legal action or claim arising out of any alleged violation of any federal, state, or local law related to immigration, labor or employment practices. If so, please describe in detail the circumstances of the matter(s). 6. Please explain in detail what steps your company has already taken to ensure compliance with federal, state and local laws, regulations and rules related to employment and labor practices. If your company in-tends to take additional steps to ensure compliance with these rules, please describe in detail. 7. Please confirm that teachers working in DCSD schools receive all compensation the District pays for years of creditable service on the DCSD Teacher’s Salary Schedule? Explain in detail how the teachers working in DCSD schools will be paid by your company. Be sure to explain how their base pay or salaries are calculated; explain in detail any additional payments or supplements that may be made; describe in detail any withhold-ings from employee pay; describe in detail any fees, charges, or other costs that may be assessed to your em-ployees. 8. Explain in detail the method by which your company will provide paid sick leave that meets the require-ments set forth in O.C.G.A. §§ 20-2-850 to 853. 9. How does your company plan to prevent personnel turnover of selected teachers during the contract year? 10. How does your company plan to facilitate seamless communication with the staff of the DeKalb County School District to address daily concerns? 11. Explain in detail your company’s process to address concerns, questions and complaints expressed by DCSD and/or teachers employed by your company. 12. Please explain in detail your cost for providing services to the DeKalb County School District. Q5. The last International Teachers contract was for $3,005,000. Since the beginning of August 2014, we have spent $3.78M combined between Intalage, Inc. and Global Teachers Research, Inc. Is there another con-tract for this time period with either vendor? There appears to be an overage of almost $780K. How did that happen and was it approved by the board? The contact states that it is an estimate of the annual salary for the teacher being $55,000. As stated, many have a higher degree and years of service which impact the amount paid for the individual. I will need to complete a deeper dive into the actual expenses to provide a response. Q6. There is a cancelled RFP on the district website dated May 21 requesting, “(DCSD) is seeking proposals from highly qualified and capable offerors engaged in the business of providing international (foreign nation-al) teachers”. Why are we limiting this RFP to only foreign national teachers? The district has explored a few other staffing agencies. One in particular charged 40% of the teacher’s salary as a placement fee with no sound documentation of the teacher’s effectiveness. Teacher employed through other Staffing Agency For a 1st year teacher with the salary of $42,000; the fee paid to the agency would be $16,800. Additionally, the District will pay 28% of the teacher’s salary for benefits. The cost to employ a teacher with agency for 1 year is $70,560 For a 10th year with a specialist degree and the salary of $58,000 the fee paid to the district would be $23,000. Additionally, the District will pay 28% of the teacher’s salary for benefits. The cost to employ a teach-er with agency for 1 year is $97,240 Teacher employed through International Contract The language the contract will ensure that all monies eared by the International Teacher will be paid to the in-ternational teacher. Therefore, the cost to the district: For a 1st year teacher with the salary of $42,000; the fee paid to the agency would be $12,500. There are no benefits provided. The cost to employ a teacher the International Agency is for 1 year $54,500 For a 10th year with a specialist degree and the salary of $58,000; the fee paid to the agency would be $12,500. There are no benefits provided. The cost to employ a teacher the International Agency is for 1 year $70,500 Teacher employed through DeKalb County School District For a 1st year teacher with the salary of $42,000. The District will pay 28% of the teacher’s salary for bene-fits. The cost to employ a teacher with DCSD for 1 year is $54,600 For a 10th year with a specialist degree and the salary of $58,000. The District will pay 28% of the teacher’s sala-ry for benefits. The cost to employ a teacher with DCSD for 1 year is $74,240 Q7. Wouldn’t U.S. citizens be preferable to foreign national teachers? The District is seeking highly quality educators regardless of their nationality Q8. Why not hire Teach For America (TFA) teachers? Cost is one factor. Another is retention. TFA is a 2 year commitment. The District has found that many TFA teachers return to their respective fields once the economy improves. Q9. There are numerous laws regarding the employment of H1B foreign nationals. For example, employers must attest that by hiring a H1B worker, it is not displacing any US worker for a similar position. What are we doing to guarantee these foreign national teachers are not displacing US workers like TFA? The attestation you have referenced only requires of (1) employers determined to be “H-1B dependent;”
(2) certain employers in the financial sector who receive federal funds; and
(3) employers who have been found willful violators by the US DOL. Additionally, it is widely documented that there is a shortage of Math, Science and Special Education Teachers in the United States. Teachers of the International Teachers Program who have worked in DCSD have had an average of 10-18 years of experience; many with a doctoral degree. This contract is simply a staffing resource. No principal will be forced to hire a teacher through this contract. In the event a teacher has not been secured through other recruitment methods; this contract will provide an alternative option.
“Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will. Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be imposed upon them.” — Frederick Douglass
“Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice. Moderation in pursuit of justice is no virtue.”