Breaking News

president Trump says UAE to open diplomatic ties with Israel

X

In about-face, DeKalb Schools releases purchasing assessment

The new findings come from a report Channel 2 Action News has been asking for, for weeks.

The DeKalb County School District released a procurement assessment over the weekend that had been previously withheld from the public, with district officials previously saying attorney-client privilege exempted the document from public release.

The DeKalb County Board of Education voted to waive that confidentiality during its school board retreat Saturday at the Atlanta Evergreen Marriott Conference Resort at Stone Mountain Park.

Two documents — the Purchasing/Procurement assessment and a school-based needs assessment — were handed to a reporter following the vote Saturday morning.

District officials did not say why the documents were made public. Board chairman Michael Erwin did not respond to requests for comment.

The procurement assessment document was discussed during the Jan. 7 DeKalb County Board of Education meeting, producing a heated debate between board member Stan Jester and board Chairman Michael Erwin. Jester referenced the document during a discussion on approving a contract for services from a new armored-car company, and was subsequently told the assessment could not be released without the full board waiving confidentiality. When he attempted to make a motion to do so, he was rebuffed by Nina Gupta, the attorney representing district law firm Nelson Mullins Riley & Scarborough LLP.

From left, DeKalb County Board of Education vice chairman Marshall Orson, chairman Michael Erwin and DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green during a meeting at school district headquarters on Feb. 13. (EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com)
From left, DeKalb County Board of Education vice chairman Marshall Orson, chairman Michael Erwin and DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green during a meeting at school district headquarters on Feb. 13. (EMILY HANEY / emily.haney@ajc.com)

Credit: Emily Haney

Credit: Emily Haney

“This school district has a history of problems with various corruption, I mean we have people in jail because they weren’t above board with their dealings with vendors,” Jester said during the meeting. “And the procurement … assessment indicates that ethics and integrity are pretty much nonexistent in the school district.”

Reporters from The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News requested the assessment following that meeting, and were told it would not be released.

The district cited Georgia law that says that public disclosure is not required for communications subject to attorney-client privilege “… provided, however, that this paragraph shall not apply to the factual findings, but shall apply to the legal conclusions, of an attorney conducting an investigation on behalf of an agency so long as such investigation does not pertain to pending or potential litigation, settlement, claims, administrative proceedings, or other judicial actions brought or to be brought by or against the agency or any officer or employee.”

Jester said Saturday he is glad the district is working to address its procurement practices, and doing so publicly.

“This administration did not create this procurement process,” he said. “I’m glad to see we are going to publicly shine a light on procurement and work toward cleaning this up publicly. I have two big concerns — ethics, integrity and fiscal responsibility have not been a priority for the school district. The school district does not procure things properly. Procurement is a professional skill set. However, we give department employees a day’s training and ask them to do professional work.

“That would be like getting rid of IT and asking people to run their own networks and servers.”

Return to AJC.com for a closer look on findings from the two documents made public.