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Pr. George's Schools to Consider New Contract Rules

By Nancy Trejos
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, November 11, 2004; Page B06

The Prince George's County school board will review a proposal tonight that would require schools chief Andre J. Hornsby to seek its permission before awarding contracts to vendors without competitive bidding.

The proposal, which board members plan to vote on early next month, calls for creating a committee that would review contracts with "sole source" companies offering products and services valued at more than $25,000. A sole source vendor is a company that has a product that no competitor has on the market.

The committee -- to be made up of several school system employees, including a legal adviser -- would make a recommendation to Hornsby, who would then present it to the school board for approval.

"It's a check and balance," said school board Chairman Beatrice P. Tignor (Upper Marlboro). "It's good for everyone. I think it saves money, it saves time, but it also allows our vendors to be participatory."

The board is not scheduled to discuss the proposal at tonight's meeting.

School system policy has allowed Hornsby and his predecessors to award such contracts without board approval if the district could get the product or service from only one company, Tignor said.

The district's chief executives also have been allowed to award contracts without competitive bidding to companies that offer professional services, such as construction management and design. The proposed policy calls for school board review of those arrangements if they exceed $25,000.

Tignor said the board had been considering changing its policy even before questions were raised recently about Hornsby's dealings with some vendors. Local and federal officials, including the FBI, are investigating the school district's purchase of $1 million in products from California-based LeapFrog SchoolHouse; Hornsby has said he was involved in the purchases but did not notify the school board that he lives with Sienna Owens, a company saleswoman. The reason, he said, was that Owens sells the company's products in Virginia and was not involved in the Prince George's sales.

Tignor said last night that she has not been contacted by the FBI or the U.S. attorney's office. "I'm still not aware of an investigation," she said.

© 2004 The Washington Post Company


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