State auditor questions how contracts handled by Department of Education – The Advocate

by | May 23, 2022 | Education




The Louisiana Department of Education may have violated state rules when it paid $486,050 for two emergency contracts without first obtaining approval from the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, according to an audit released Monday morning.One of the contracts went to a firm led by a former top official of the East Baton Rouge Parish school district.The audit stems from a request by BESE last November.

Louisiana’s top school board Thursday asked Legislative Auditor Michael Waguespack to investigate emergency contracts issued by the state Depa…

The report says the Louisiana Administrative Code requires approval by BESE for professional and consulting services contracts of more than $50,000.”By paying contractors for professional and consulting services prior to obtaining BESE’s approval DOE (Department of Education) may have violated a provision of the Louisiana Administrative Code,” auditors wrote.The report said the department made a payment to Postlethwaite & Netterville for $426,050  on May 21, 2021 to help private schools cope with the coronavirus pandemic.The state board did not approve the agreement until June 16.The other payment went to Invicta Consulting LLC, whose chief executive officer is Sharmayne Rutledge, who at the time had recently resigned as assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction at the East Baton Rouge Parish school district.Invicta was chosen to review academic recovery plans submitted by school districts.The report said department officials paid $60,000 on Nov. 9, 2021 and that BESE has still not approved the agreement.It also said then BESE President Sandy Holloway did not even know of the existence of the contract until two months after it took effect.

The clash between the president of Louisiana’s top school board and state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley is raising questions about …

Holloway could not be reached for immediate comment.In their written responses, state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley and BESE President Jim Garvey said they will act to change the rules governing contracts during emergencies.

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The audit said officials need to craft policies to “clearly define the circumstances under which BESE’s approval is necessary and when contracts are binding and payments can be made to contractors.”Garvey said Monday the changes may be discussed by BESE at its next meeting in June.”We are already writing those new rules,” he said. “We are jumping on it.”But Brumley said the department followed procedures used by previous administrations in deciding how the department could act within the guidelines of Gov. John Bel Edwards emergency proclamation sparked by the pandemic.”The agency believed we could use the governor’s executive order to work quickly as needed and we retain that belief,” Brumley said in an interview Monday.

The president of the state school board Friday rebuffed a demand by state Superintendent of Education Cade Brumley to provide him with evidenc…

“We continued this established practice throughout the pandemic while always disclosing these emergency contracts at subsequent board meetings,” he wrote.”In fact, for nearly two years not a single member of the state board questioned this standard practice or asked LDOE to alter its standard practice.”The audit said Edwards’ emergency orders did not suspend BESE’s authority over contracts of more than $50,000.Brumley said he was pleased that the audit found no evidence of misappropriation of funds.Gray Sexton, an attorney who represents Rutledge and Invicta, said Monday both the audit and the state Board of Ethics concluded that neither Rutledge nor Invicta “received anything other than what they were entitled to.”Sexton sai …

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