Who authorized the four-year lease of 160 additional laptop computers for the
Those questions and others remain as town officials continue to look into how the
But school officials say they did inform the chairmen of the
Further, school leaders claim that members of the School Committee were told about the transaction, although no record of a vote seems to exist.
State procurement law requires any contract that extends beyond three years to be approved by the relevant, deliberative body -- in this case either the School Committee or
Town finance officials say that because the purchase expanded on a Town Meeting-approved warrant article originally authorizing the lease of 400 laptops for the
During a joint meeting of the
The issue is likely to come up again soon -- when next fiscal year's budget for the
Who knew what, when?
According to School Committee member
Colby-Clements said all of the former committee chairmen, including Selectman
Neither Stumpf or Salafia said they could recall the meeting. But after reviewing his notes, Stumpf said while he was, indeed, in attendance, he had no recollection of discussing the additional computers.
"There was a meeting," Stumpf said, "but I did not see anything in my notes about the number of devices (laptops) going from 400 to 560."
Salafia also did not remember authorizing the additional leases. "We didn't take a vote on it. We didn't authorize it and we weren't informed about it at the chairs' meeting," he said.
Minutes of that meeting do not appear to exist since it was not an advertised session given there was not a quorum of elected officials from any of the various boards present, Town Clerk
School Committee informed?
According to Colby-Clements, the issue of the 160 additional leases was "brought back to the School Committee at a budget subcommittee meeting," she said during the
However, School Committee member
Colby-Clements responded, "I don't remember whether you were there or not," she told Birnbach. "You can disagree all you want, but it was brought to the budget subcommittee of the School Committee."
Birnbach persisted that any major change -- like the leasing of more computers than originally approved by Town Meeting -- "should have come back to everybody (on the School Committee). Whether or not I was there is no excuse."
An email from Superintendent of Schools
"I brought the situation forward to the School Committee chair, vice chair and budget subcommittee," McGrath said, adding that they agreed the schools could use surplus funds left over at the end of fiscal year 2013 "to cover the shortfall in the technology purchase."
It is unclear when that meeting took place or if minutes of it exist.
A vote does not appear to have happened during a regular School Committee meeting. School Committee minutes around the time the purchase order was filed at the end of
Minutes for the budget subcommittee are not available on the
Vispoli said a vote should have been taken and recorded.
"It requires a vote of somebody," he said. By entering into a four-year lease, he said, they are "encumbering money for future years. If you spend that money within the parameters of the budget, that's one thing. But if you sign a contract beyond that period of the budget, that's another.
"We never voted on it. It never came to us. We found about it afterward."
Part of the plan
Some town officials say it was not necessary to get School Committee or selectmen's approval for the expanded lease because it was part of the "master plan" put together by the IT director and because Town Meeting had approved the overall program.
"When we procured the 160 Macs, we did so believing that the acquisition was consistent with the intended scope and prior approval of IT-1," school Business Manager
Szymanski said in an earlier email that although the 160 Macs were not specifically included in the IT-1 Town Meeting request, members of the School Committee, along with other boards, knew about them.
"We explained the need for the additional units to the School Committee -- the approving authority (and other boards and committees) and that the required purchase was to be in accordance with (chief information officer)
That approval, Watkins said, was provided "via the Capital Improvement Plan and process."
Town Meeting voters did approve the original plan to lease the computers as part of the IT-1 Capital Improvements Plan article in 2012.
A spokeswoman for the state inspector general's office, which oversees the state procurement law and monitors fraud, waste and abuse, would not comment on the specifics of the case.
Generally, though, if a community does violate Chapter 30B, the public procurement law, the remedy is that the vendor should not be paid.
"A contract made in violation of this chapter shall not be valid," reads Section 17B of the state procurement act. "And the governmental body shall make no payment under such contract. Minor informalities shall not require invalidation of a contract."
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