Arkansas Legislative Committee Uncovers Issues in Valley View Audit

by Michael Wilkey (mwilkey@talkbusiness.net) 185 views 

An audit formally released Thursday showed that the Valley View School District did not follow state law in regards to nearly $440,000 worth of bids that were awarded. The Legislative Joint Auditing Committee’s Educational Institutions standing committee filed the report during a hearing at the Capitol.

The audit dealt with two projects that were started under former superintendent Radius Baker, also a former State Representative.

“The district executed a contract of $209,474 to replace air conditioning units at the Valley View Intermediate School,” the audit noted. “The District awarded this contract to a vendor based on the vendor’s membership with the Texas Interlocal Purchasing System, or TIPS, a cooperative purchasing program. In our review of this contract and upon consultation with representatives of the TIPS Purchasing Cooperative, it was determined that HVAC services were not permitted under the vendor’s contract with the Cooperative. Therefore, the district did not comply with state procurement laws regarding this contract.”

Deputy Legislative Auditor Larry Hunter said the records showed that the contracts were negotiated in July and Aug. 2013. Lacy’s Welding and Construction in Harrisburg served as the general contractor for the project, while Control Heating and Cooling of Jonesboro was the subcontractor, Hunter said.

Also, according to the Secretary of State’s website, Lacy’s Welding and Construction gave $2,000 on June 16, 2014, to Baker’s state House campaign. Baker, who now works as superintendent at Hoxie, lost to now Rep. Dwight Tosh, R-Jonesboro, by a 61-39% margin in the Nov. 2014 general election.

Baker said the company’s owner did contribute to his campaign, but noted that the contribution was made nearly a year after the contract was approved. Also, Baker said other contractors in and around the area donated to his campaign. Baker also said the district used the TIPS program, which allows districts to pool their purchasing power to buy goods and services.

The audit also found an issue involving a $227,527 contract with a company “in which an employee had a financial interest without obtaining a board resolution and subsequent approval from the Arkansas Department of Education.” Hunter said the issue, involving Service Group 360 for cleaning services, was forwarded to the Second Judicial District Prosecuting Attorney’s office in February 2015. Attempts to reach Prosecuting Attorney Scott Ellington on Thursday about the issue were not successful.

Baker said the district had used the company for several years on contract and that the contract was bid out. Baker also said the district’s maintenance department reviewed everything before the issue was brought forward.

DISTRICT REMEDY
The committee heard from Valley View Superintendent Bryan Russell, board president Richard Rogers and district bookkeeper Judy Clampitt about the issues.

Rogers said the district has implemented an oversight policy, both on the bid and employee level. On the Service Group 360 issue, Rogers said the disclosure on the family ties was filed but the resolution on the issue was not.

As for the new policy, Rogers said employees must now sign paperwork showing any ties or possible conflicts of interest that they may have with companies. Also, vendors have to sign paperwork showing if any of their employees have ties to school employees, Rogers said.

“We don’t want to be in the paper for bad things. That’s for sure,” Rogers said.

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