Sunday, March 27, 2011

Plymouth School Taxpayers Prepare to Challenge School Officials for Wasting Tax Dollars & Shutting Out Competition for Roof Projects. State Board of Accounts Asked to Investigate Alleged Illegal Activity by School Officials.

Superintendent Dan Tyree
I'm still getting numerous hits for a story that was published March 10, 2011 entitled, "Plymouth Schools Shut Out Indiana Competition While Shamefully Wasting Scarce Tax Dollars!"

I've also been receiving phone calls from angry Plymouth taxpayers who all have an array of stories to tell about alleged corruption within the school district involving alleged illegal computer tampering by school officials, violations of bidding laws, and conflicts-of-interest, to name a few. 

While those stories are being investigated, I wanted to take a closer look at the roofing materials controversy since it's one that is currently raising eyebrows from onlookers and news reporters throughout the state.  Taxpayers are also considering filing a legal challenge to the controversial actions and have asked the State Board of Accounts to investigate.

Surely Superintendent Dan Tyree is aware of prior controversies involving the no-bid, anti-competitive roofing scheme that received intense scrutiny a few years ago from taxpayers, state auditors, government officials, and state legislators.  It resulted in a legal opinion being issued by the Attorney General that declared the actions of school officials to be illegal.  Officials from the Wilson Education Center declared that they were abandoning their illegal practices.

So, why has this problem reared its ugly head again in Northern Indiana?  Why is Superintendent Dan Tyree willing to risk his reputation by placing the school district in legal jeopardy with the purchase of $400,000 worth of roofing products without putting them out for public bid?

Why is he illegally shutting out competition by using an out-of-state corporation to make this controversial purchase?  Why are other superintendents in Northern Indiana reportedly doing the same thing using the same out-of-state vendor?  Why wouldn't they want to save money in these tough economic times? 

I've already directed Tyree to state audit reports, including one conducted for the Wilson Education Center, one of nine ESC's in the state, but apparently he's thumbing his nose at hard evidence and ignoring repeated warnings that he may be opening the school district up to enormous legal liability.

Taxpayers aren't the only ones complaining.  Roofing manufacturers have entered the fray, and are contacting state officials to ask them to look into several projects throughout the state that were not properly bid, including the ones at Plymouth High School, Lincoln Middle School, and Jefferson Elementary School.

One Indiana roofing manufacturer has enlisted the support of state legislators to put a stop to these alleged illegal practices, and those efforts seem to be gaining momentum at the state house despite attempts from out-of-state lobbyists to thwart the endeavors.

Taxpayers have already been down this road.  State auditors and the Attorney General have already declared these types of actions to be illegal.  The following excerpts are taken from the audit report for the Wilson Education Center dated February 5, 2010.

"It is the opinion of this Office that school corporations are covered by the public work statute and are subject to the procedures for bids and quotes whenever they contract for public work even when the public work is contracted through an educational service center.  The process required to award a contract for a particular public work project is determined by the cost of the project except in the event of a declared emergency.  The definition of 'public work' includes repairs to a roof, including those made to a portion of a roof."

The report goes on to discuss Indiana statutes as it pertains to roofing products since some schools were purchasing roofing materials separately from service and installation. According to the State Board of Accounts, school corporations are not exempt from state bidding laws for these purchases as outlined in the audit report.

     "The Wilson Education Center adopted specifications approved by the AEPA...to solicit bids for various bid categories for products that do not include the cost of installation (products only).
     The Invitation to Bid requires bidders to be able to provide products and service of their products in all of the AEPA Member States.
     No information was presented for examination showing that a process was in place which ensured the multi-state service requirement did not eliminate bidders that were qualified to provide products and service of their products within the State of Indiana except for the 'office/classroom suppplies' bid category.
     IC 5-22-5-3 (Public Purchasing Law) states: 'A specification must do the following: (1) Promote overall economy for the purposes intended.  (2) Encourage competition in satisfying the governmental body's needs.
     IC 5-22-4-7(b) states: This article applies to the purchases made by a cooperative purchasing organization."

We can stop here for a moment to highlight the fact that Superintendent Tyree did not follow these statutes when entering into a purchase agreement for $400,000 worth of roofing materials that could have been purchased for much less had the items been put out for public bid.

It is also clear that he cannot pass off his careless actions by claiming that the governor encourages schools to participate in buying co-ops whenever possible.  The purpose of volume purchasing contracts is to save money, not waste it, and the use of these programs are subject to Indiana's public purchasing laws as outlined by the State Board of Accounts.

Mr. Tyree, you and your cohorts are not above the law no matter how you want to spin this story!

The lengthy audit report used an example from a Penn High School project to show that this type of practice is illegal in Indiana.  Auditors compared several non-bid items from the project to determine the amount of money that could have been saved had the project been legally bid.

It should also be noted that Penn-Harris School officials used the same out-of-state company to illegally purchase its roofing materials that Plymouth school officials are currently using.

State auditors concluded, "Our comparison showed that the Weatherproofing Technology, Inc. (WTI) [TREMCO] had the lowest costs for purchases subject to the price survey for 42% of the project costs.  However, Johns Manville (JM) had the lowest costs for 58% of the project costs and lower overall project costs in the amount of $68,122 as shown in the following schedule..."

The Metropolitan School District of Washington Township also engaged in illegal bidding practices according to the same audit report.  This project notably referred to roofing materials only, the same practice currently being employed by Plymouth school officials.

School officials were admonished by auditors in the report.

"However, no information was presented for examination showing there was a documented process whereby a comparison was made between bidders' discounted prices for 'roofing materials only.'  Without a price comparison in place, we were unable to determine that an objectively measurable basis was used to allow the contract to be awarded to the lowest responsible and responsive bidder in accordance with IC 5-22-7-8 and/or IC 26-1-12-4(b)(8) and to encourage competition in accordance with IC 5-22-5-3 and/or IC 36-1-12-4(b)(1).  The following is an example of 'roofing materials only' purchased by MSDWT that were not subject o price comparisons..."

Where are your price comparisons, Mr. Tyree?  It appears that none were made; therefore, taxpayers have done a job that should have been performed by school officials.  A price comparison made for two products that you purchased revealed that $108,308 could have been saved on those alone!  Imagine the cost savings had a cost comparison been done and the items put out for public bid!

There's no excuse for this type of mismanagement.  No amount of public spin can extract Plymouth School officials from the web of deceit that they are caught in.  Taxpayers have already asked the State Board of Accounts to investigate these questionable actions.  Stay tuned...

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