Reports by The Clarion-Ledger and other media on MDE contracts (and purchases) prompted the Joint Legislative Committee on Performance Evaluation and Expenditure Review to look into the issue. Now, some PEER committee members want further investigation by State Auditor Stacey Pickering.
Some findings of and questions raised by the (PEER) report released Monday and from information from those close to the probe include:
- Why eight contracts totaling about $600,000 for a revamp of MDE’s information technology division were given to former Maryland coworkers of Superintendent Carey Wright or their companies. These contracts have faced some recent media scrutiny.
- Why the IT overhaul and other projects were split into small contracts or purchases below the thresholds for state contract board oversight or in some cases competitive bidding or pricing requirements. State law forbids “invoice splitting” of a purchase or project to thwart oversight or bidding.
- Why IT contracts or purchases — which would require input and oversight from the state’s technology department — were labeled in the state’s computer system as personal services or consulting.
Whether there were duplications in contracts and spending for the same projects.
- Why MDE made payments to Joseph B. Kyles of Memphis of more than $214,000 in fiscal 2015 for computer-related goods and services without a contract and without entering quotes or purchase orders into the state’s accounting system. State records show MDE made at least two purchases just below the “competitive bid limit” of $50,000 with Kyles for what appears to be the same teacher training system.
Kyles is leader of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition’s Memphis branch. He owns a company called The Kyles Company, which filed as an LLC in Tennessee in 2015, but has since been dissolved. Kyles did not return phone calls from The Clarion-Ledger seeking comment.
Sources close to the PEER probe said MDE officials were not forthcoming with answers to numerous questions the committee had.