Miller, left, and Causey
Two members of the Baltimore County Public Schools Board of Education asked the state school board on Tuesday to conduct an audit of BCPS contracts going back five years. Parents also spoke in favor of an audit.
The request came after news reports of companies wooing school officials with travel and consulting fees and then landing large technology contracts with BCPS. Former BCPS Superintendent Dallas Dance is being investigated by the state prosecutor’s office over his relationship with SUPES Academy, which had contracts with the school system, the Baltimore Sun has reported.
State Sen. Jim Brochin, who is running for county executive, has already called on the state to conduct an independent audit. On Tuesday, school board members Ann Miller and Kathleen Causey echoed that request.
The following is the testimony Miller gave to the state board:
We ask that the state board vote to have an independent, comprehensive audit conducted of BCPS contracts for the years 2012 to present. We applaud Senator Brochin’s request for this audit and are two of at least four BCPS board members who also requested this audit, along with many stakeholders.
The reasons the audit we are requesting is necessary are many:
- BCPS conducts a Change in Principal Audit every time there is a new principal at a BCPS school. It is reasonable to also conduct an audit when there is a change of leadership for the entire school system to set a baseline for the incoming superintendent.
- After five years of setting the system’s agenda, culture, programs, and central office personnel, the previous superintendent resigned unexpectedly, with little explanation. It was later reported by the Baltimore Sun that the Maryland State Prosecutor had begun a criminal investigation of the previous superintendent about a month prior to his resignation.
- The BCPS Ethics Review Panel found the previous superintendent to be in ethical violation on three counts during his five year tenure, not including more possible violations which came to light after his departure. One of his violations surrounded a no-bid contract with a company for whom the superintendent had worked as a paid consultant.
- The review of BCPS procurement practices that our interim superintendent has initiated only covers a fraction of what is needed, and only reviews six months of the time under our previous superintendent.
- It is essential that any audit of BCPS contracts be conducted by an independent external entity, not under the direction of the subject of the audit.
- The Baltimore County Board of Education has shown inadequacy in holding our system leadership accountable. If it had addressed the issues that had been raised repeatedly by some board members, several elected officials, and numerous stakeholders over the past several years, we would not be standing in front of you today.
- The latest ethical lapse, for which a complaint was filed last month, involves both our previous and current interim superintendents and a company which brokers relationships between ed-tech companies and school system leadership. Many of their vendor clients hold contracts with BCPS, many which are no-bid, and some being the most controversial contracts that BCPS has entered into during the previous superintendent’s tenure.
- The legislative audit conducted in 2015 cited several BCPS no-bid contracts, but BCPS continued to issue no-bid contracts for even higher dollar amounts and longer term lengths.
- Despite a misleading press release issued jointly by our board chair and the interim superintendent recently, the issues around the current ethics complaint are not settled or concluded. Board members are still waiting for responses to information requests, and the preliminary requirements imposed on the interim superintendent by the board only addressed one of six counts of the ethics complaint regarding financial non-disclosure. The other counts, which have potentially more serious ramifications deal with improper influence, erosion of the public trust, conflicts of interest, and use of prestige of office.
- The BCPS Ethics Review Panel has no investigative authority. It can only opine based on the information already available. The only way to begin the journey of restoring the public trust in our school system’s leadership and decision-making is to conduct a comprehensive, independent audit of our contracts from 2012 to present.