Article Describes DeJong and Fischer Connection
DeJong now has a $2.3 million contract in Arkansas to assess facilites for the entire state. Randall Fischer has signed the letter on Arkansas website requesting bids to do this work. Act 90 gives the State of Arkansas authority to take over all “facility repairs, improvements, and construction along with technology improvements.” In a similar assessment in Ohio that DeJong and Fischer are doing here in Arkansas, the price tag came back as 16.5 billion. To put that in perspective,if the estimate for Arkansas is even half that estimate, it would take about a 2.5 percent sales tax increase in Arkansas for 8 years to pay for that.
Following Article From Ohio Posted by permission of Columbus Dispatch http://www.dispatch.com/ Emphasis added.
Friday, September 6, 2002 |
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
NEWS , 09C
SCHOOL-FACILITIES PANEL TO SPONSOR MEETING ITSELF
Commission decides it wouldn’t be right for consulting firm to pay the freight
By Catherine Candisky
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH
The Ohio School Facilities Commission yesterday dumped a private consulting firm as sponsor of its annual conference for school-district officials and contractors.
The move was the latest effort by the commission to clear up questions about how the $2 billion school building and renovation program has been run the past five years.
The commission unanimously removed DeJong & Associates, an educational planning firm from Dublin, as host of Ohio Builds 2002. The action came less than three weeks before the conference set for Sept. 24-25 in Columbus.
“We don’t have any problem with any contractor, but we want to separate ourselves from any appearance” of impropriety, said commission Chairman Thomas W. Johnson.
“It seemed more appropriate not to associate with any one company,” added Mary Lynn Readey, interim director of the commission.
Randall A. Fischer, who resigned as commission director last month, gave DeJong unbid consulting contracts for more than $4 million primarily to conduct assessments and determine the facility needs of school districts receiving state construction money. The company has been paid more than $2.8 million under the pacts so far.
Last year, Fischer also allowed DeJong to co-host the commission’s conference.
The move angered some contractors who compete with DeJong for business. They complained that the role gave DeJong an unfair advantage with school districts that might later turn to the company for contract work.
Conference attendees had to register through DeJong, and the company also sold trade booth space and advertising in a seminar program to contractors. The “sponsorships” cost as much as $5,000.
DeJong last week notified companies who had bought sponsorships for this year’s event that it would no longer be involved.
“In the best interest of Ohio Builds, the committee felt that management of the event should remain within CEFPI and OSFC,” wrote Carolyn Staskiewicz, project director for DeJong.
At its meeting yesterday, the commission approved a series of resolutions to establish itself and a nonprofit professional group, the Ohio chapter of the Council of Educational Facility Planners International, as co-hosts of the conference.
The commission has come under fire since May 30 when a Franklin County judge called its competitive bidding process “a sham.”
Common Pleas Judge Jennifer L. Brunner ruled that Fischer had unilaterally awarded about 1,800 contracts for more than $2 billion in construction without legal authority. The commission, Brunner found, must vote on each contract.
About a month later, Fischer resigned after acknowledging that he accepted free golf from executives of two companies to which he awarded unbid contracts totaling $23 million.
Fischer acknowledged no gifts from DeJong, but one of his expense reports revealed that the company booked him a Boston-Columbus round-trip plane ticket last summer for $219.50. A commission spokesman said neither Fischer nor his assistant was able to book the flight and Fischer paid for the ticket, but could not provide a receipt.
Other questions have been raised about Fischer’s allowing sole-source product requirements to be written into bid specifications. That effectively blocked competition among manufacturers by requiring a specific product such as a window or ceiling tile.
Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles said yesterday that he is continuing to investigate Fischer and the commission, but it is too soon to draw any conclusions about possible wrongdoing.
Charles, however, commended the commission for recently instituting an ethics policy and requiring employees to go through ethics training.
“I see an effort to make sure things are being done right,” he said.