DISD Board to Vote (Again) on $40-Mil Tech Deal. You Know, the One It's Being Sued Over?

digitalclassroom.jpg
In August, we broke the news that Lewisville-based Delcom Group filed a $40 million suit against the Dallas Independent School District over a massive technology contract awarded by the board in May and then yanked, without explanation, a month later. Turned out, according to a subsequent filing, that former DISD board member Ron Price called interim Superintendent Alan King, who was then the district's chief financial officer, and told him and others that Delcom employed a man who 16 years ago had been convicted of a felony over some stolen fishing equipment.

District officials knew all this when the board approved the contract for its Digitial Classrooms initiative in May. And DISD and Delcom have worked together for eight years -- all of them happy ones, sources say. But on June 20, Gary Kerbow, the district's director of purchasing, sent Delcom's director of business operations Joe Mark Phillips a letter saying that Delcom "has not been forthright in reporting a Felony conviction for one of its operators ... [and] for this reason Dallas ISD has elected to end contract negotiations with Delcom." At which point the district opted to go with the second-best bidder: Prime Systems out of Houston.

Reason I mention all of this again: Today the DISD board is going to discuss ratifying that contract with Prime. Which is why, moments ago, three public speakers addressed the pending litigation.

The first to speak was Robert Witte, an attorney at Strasburger & Price, who represents Optoma Projectors, whose product was a big part of Delcom's classroom-makeover project. Witte asked the board, which has since gone behind closed doors into executive session, how "can it ratify a contract when it knows it's incorrect, especially when it's for $40 million?" Witte says the contract under consideration today says Prime will use Optoma projectors. Not so much: "We received word from the successful bidder, Prime, they wouldn't be using Optoma," he told the board  "[And] if Optoma projectors are not being used in this project, then why is the board being asked to ratify a $40-million contract that says they are?"

[Update at 4:49 p.m.: The item was just pulled from the consent agenda, and the trustees were told it would be explained in a memo that will be sent to them tomorrow. It will also be discussed further in closed session, due to the ongoing litigation. Jump for the rest of the original item.]

Witte also noted "other circumstances we hope would cause the board some concern," chief among them testimony provided under oath about communications between Price and DISD officials, including, perhaps, some trustees.

At which point Doug Busey, director of AV services for Delcom, got up to speak. He told the board that Delcom's "pricing was complete and transparent," that "there were no hidden costs," that it guaranteed its product for five years and that the district "would have incurred zero costs" should something go wrong during that time frame. He then pointed to Prime's deal, which, he insists, is "fraught with hidden costs, a limited warranty and vague scope of work," and, echoing Witte's comments, noted that the list of vendors is incorrect.

In its litigation against the district, Delcom asserts that immediately after DISD killed the deal, it shared with Prime all of the info it initially provided -- from its list of vendors to its "propriety design solution," meaning: its trade secrets, which, Delcom said, could significantly harm its business. Busey said moments ago that "Delcom was never afforded the opportunity to discuss [the switch] with the district," and that when he asked why, he was told the district's in a hurry to begin installing those digital classrooms.

"But five months later," Busey said, "work hasn't even started." He then invited trustees to tour its facilities. "Then ask the second vendor if they'll do the same thing," he said. (The Rev. Peter Johnson then got up and said he'd toured the facilities -- and that he'd gotten interested in the story because of Schutze. Well, I never ...)

More to come once the board's out of executive session. One thing to keep in mind, though: DISD higher-ups have said they didn't even need to ratify the new contract because it already had board approval via the old one with Delcom, which it was just replacing with Prime, so there. So why's it even on the agenda?

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22 comments
DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

DISD attorneys: at least a couple of nepotism hires who constantly--and I mean constantly--refer to their relative who works/used to work for DISD in some other useless make-work, bureaucrat position.  It's sad, really, to watch them in action.  Expensive for the taxpayers of course, but sad nevertheless.

As for the projectors, the bulbs are FREAKY expensive to replace (hundreds of dollars).  And if the machines have any other glitch, there is no one to fix them.  The Media Specialists (we no longer have librarians these days) just shelve them and check out a different one (if there are any left) to the teacher.

Word is that DISD, with its vast riches, plans to just replace alllll current projectors so they can funnel a wad of taxpayer cash to the next Lucky Vendor Lotto Winner.

I was without a projector for 7 months once and my students outscored almost all other DISD students who took the same test, which shows how "necessary" the expense really is.

Just give every every teacher a class set of cheap, wireless laptops and there you go.

Mister_Mean
Mister_Mean

Be affraid Dallas.    Fear that the DISD trustees are on the move again.  Where is the FBI when you need them?

Guest
Guest

So the DISD higher-up's position is that if the Board approves a contract, the DISD higher-ups can just contract with another company using different suppliers and different terms without further Board approval?

Heywood
Heywood

And this $40,000,00 and legal fees will come out of the coffee fund?  The pay saved while not having a superabundant since Hino walked away?  The cushions in the district offices?  or from the funds supposed to go for teaching?  

Amy S.
Amy S.

To parody my children who live by their phones and laptops, "What is a projector?"

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

What happened to chalk boards, overhead projectors, and the sweet smell of mimeographed paper? 

DISD Teacher
DISD Teacher

Does anyone know what it would take for the FBI to actually get involved?What are they (the FBI) waiting for?Because I'm pretty much 1000% certain they would have guaranteed job security for the next several years once they started taking DISD apart.

Paul
Paul

The chalk caused one kid to have an asthma spell, the overhead projectors were pawned and the huffers used up the duplicating fluid.

Besides, projectors are hi tek

Diane Birdwell
Diane Birdwell

Actually, the FBI in Dallas has had a series of small and not-so-small investigations occur concerning DISD. Some have netted misuse of school funds/properry/materials/contracts, or looked into the not so well-known other nefarious dealings. Some have resulted in convictions, although it is often the case that DISD gets those quietly pushed away from BELO publications, so you never know the outcome.

All it takes for the FBI to become involved is to show cause--misuse of a politician's vote, misuse of taxpayer dollars-- not in a stupid way, but in a criminal way. People in DISD have made careers out of looking stupid to avoid being looked at as criminal, no joke. Seriously, no joke. They know you can't be put in jail for stupid, or the fed prison in Seagoville would be overflowing.

If one calls the FBI, be aware that they do not suffer fools gladly, nor do they want gossip. They want SOLID FACTS. Think of SGT Joe Friday of Dragnet. Don't give them a social commentary--just tell them the simple story of what illegal act may have occurred and by whom--and when.

Any evidence one has is even better to demonstrate validity of one's claims. Or, lacking that, tell them where they can find said evidence. Then, by God, keep your trap shut. Nobody, not even your spouse, should know you called them. You will not hear from them again. They will not update you on what they found. Your name will not appear in public, unless you are a material witness, essential to the story.

And it may take months, if not years, for them to do this right. You would be surprised which employees in the last 10 years have upped and left the DISD because they got the famous "target" letter from the FBI, or even more, they would be called for a deposition or "interview."

Far from being a race-based fishing expedition outfitter, like some in Dallas would have you believe, the local FBI would love nothing more than to leave DISD alone and go after drug cartels and such. But as long as people see the DISD as the big piggy bank it is, these agents will be poking in and around us all.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

That's almost real money.  They should go out and hire some Strasburger caliber real lawyers.

IT-Dude
IT-Dude

"While the exact fund source cannot be identified at this time, this provision allows for the use of any funding source for purchases under this authorization that are available from campus or central departmental budgets".  

The $10M from the general fund is also worrisome because e-rate would normally cover this at 12 cents on the dollar but DISD is still in e-rate limbo.  This has the potential to be a boondoggle...who taught DISD legal how to write a frigging contract?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

So that's why I have such fond memeograph memories.  At least the huffers got something out of it.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I take it you have had all of your fillings removed.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

Double wow.  That sure encourages businesses to come out and bid.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I'm a lightweight but I'll give 2:1, my 200 vs 100.

Paul
Paul

What are you giving?

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

My money is on the Strasburger lawyer.  Will give odds.

Paul
Paul

No one, they just make it up as they go along.

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