Bloomberg Education Record Stained by More Corruption

Special Commissioner for Investigation Richard Condon has released a blockbuster report on the fraud perpetuated by favored DOE contractor FTA. (Report pdf is here.) The SCI points to fraud of at least $6.5 million. The worst part of this episode is that despite obvious warning signs, DOE pressed ahead with giving more business to the firm.

After a series of damning columns by Juan Gonzalez, I urged the Panel for Educational Policy, at our September, 2009 meeting to vote down a huge contract extension citing numerous irregularities. During my investigation of the contract with FTA, senior DOE staff including Joel Klein confidant Photeine Anagnostopoulos, repeatedly claimed there was nothing wrong with the arrangements and attempted to block my request to see the actual contract before we voted on it. Only with the intervention of Borough President Stringer and Assembly members Nolan and O'Donnell did DOE relent and provide contract copies. Bronx representative Anna Santos joined me in voting against it.

Unfortunately, the PEP oversight of contracts has been even further weakened under PEP Chairman Tino Hernandez and DOE Chancellor Walcott. The DOE now routinely asks for approval well before the contracts are even drafted making proper due diligence impossible. Mayoral bloc appointees rubber stamp the contracts regardless of issues uncovered. Meetings of the PEP Contracts Committee which is supposed to vet contracts, were suspended last year by Committee Chair Joe Chan. Committee meetings have been scheduled again by Hernandez, but only during the working day making it extremely difficult for the working parents on the Panel or the general public to attend regularly. The measures taken by Walcott and Hernandez have dramatically undermined the approval authority provided to the PEP under state law.

See today's Juan Gonzalez column on the debacle here.

For more background on the PEP and its members see Liza Featherstone's disturbing article in the Brooklyn Rail here.
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