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Bid Rigging Alleged in AZ School Procurement Scandal

PHOENIX (CN) - Tucson Unified School District employees rigged bids and accepted illegal gifts from contractors, the state claims in Maricopa County Court. Tucson U.S.D. is the second-largest district in Arizona.

Former TUSD technology and telecommunications services director Guyton Campbell and chief operations officer Rudy Flores are accused of accepting meals from three contractors though the officials were involved in procurement and competitive purchasing.

Trillion Partners, E-Rate Consulting Services and Logical Choice Technologies are accused of providing meals and gifts to TUSD employees in exchange for contracts.

The attorney general says Logical Choice, a reseller for Promethean products, sold "whiteboards, accessories, installation and services" to the district, bypassing procurement. The state claims that the district paid Logical Choice $342,000 for the unlawfully acquired open-market items in 2006-2007.

Trillion salesman Gary Gaessler allegedly met with Campbell and Flores before, during and after work hours at district offices and at restaurants to discuss Trillion's partnership with TUSD. Gaessler regularly e-mailed Flores and Campbell, who allegedly failed to keep copies of the communications as required under public record law. During the meetings, Campbell and Flores told Gaessler of the district's future technology plans, giving Trillion a leg up to begin design work before the district started the procurement process.

While district personnel attended a Denver conference, Trillion - a Texas-based company that provides wireless services - hosted a dinner for 10 to 15 district employees, a gift what was approved by then-Superintendent Roger Pfeuffer, according to the complaint.

Flores and Campbell awarded a contract to E-Rate Consulting Services though the district received only two quotes instead of the required three, seeking the cost of an analysis to determine if the district needed new technology.

TUSD paid the company $39,000 in 2005-2006, although the district requires sealed bids or sealed proposals for projects over $30,000, and had a lower bid from a competing company, the attorney general says. Gaessler allegedly promoted E-Rate to Flores and Campbell.

Also named in the lawsuit - though not as defendants - are Campbell's former executive assistant Martha Peyton, who allegedly accepted gifts from Gaessler and provided him with information about procurement; Patti Lopez, a former deputy superintendent for TUSD who allegedly accepted drinks and meals from Promethean; Lisa Long, the current director of curriculum and innovation, who allegedly accepted dinner and drinks from Trillion and served on the procurement evaluation committee that recommended awarding it a contract; and Ed Kowalczyk, who allegedly received gifts from Promethean and served on the evaluation committee that recommended purchasing its whiteboards and buying accessories from Logical Choice.

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