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Pr. George's Schools Panel To Study Contract Awards

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 5, 2004; Page B02

The Prince George's County school board will review how contracts are awarded, including instances without competitive bidding, a board member said yesterday.

Robert O. Duncan (Laurel), chairman of the panel's Finance, Audit and Budget Committee, said board members have discussed evaluating contracting procedures for months, particularly after an audit of the fiscal 2003 budget found flaws in the way the school system monitored its finances.

Duncan said the need for a review was intensified by recent questions about county schools chief Andre J. Hornsby and his relationship with a few vendors. The board's ethics panel is investigating $1 million in purchases from LeapFrog SchoolHouse, a software company that employs a woman with whom Hornsby lives.

The ethics committee also is looking into a South Africa trip that Hornsby took in July 2003 in his role as then-president of the National Alliance of Black School Educators. His trip was paid for by Plato Learning, a company that has sold software to Prince George's schools.

"We need to take a look at how we procure goods and services," Duncan said, "and whether it needs to be modified."

Hornsby, through a spokeswoman, said last night that he spent much of his first year on the job taking several steps to improve the contracting system as well as to erase a budget deficit. He said recently that the school system had done business with both companies before his arrival and that he did not steer contracts based on personal factors.

The school board approves only construction contracts and changes to those contracts of $25,000 or more, Duncan said.


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