Montgomery County school system violated its own policy on crisis management contracts, report finds

Montgomery County Public Schools officials violated the rules in place on emergency spending for contracts when they were trying to deal with the fallout from allegations of sexual harassment and bullying involving then-principal Joel Beidleman last year, a new report found.

The latest report from the Office of the Inspector General found the school system broke its own rules in two areas: issuing contracts on an emergency basis, and failing to follow established procedures to go ahead with those contracts.

The Montgomery County Public Schools’ procurement manual states that, “In order to protect personal safety, life or property,” contracts can be issued on an emergency basis.

But Inspector General Megan Limarzi wrote that the services the school system sought — including helping to protect “the reputations of the MCPS system” and “manage incoming media inquiries” — didn’t reach the standard of an emergency under the school system’s own policies.

The report also found fault with the approval process involved in allowing the $210,000 expenditure for crisis management and communication services. The report states that, according to the inspector general’s analysis, MCPS began using the services of the selected vendor 16 days before a “justification form” was submitted to the procurement unit.

The report further noted that the Board of Education approved the then-Superintendent of Schools’ request to use emergency procurement at its Oct. 12 meeting, two months after services were already being provided by the vendor to the school system.

WTOP asked school officials if they contested any of the OIG’s findings, and whether the incoming Superintendent, Thomas Taylor would be addressing any of the issues raised in the report.

MCPS Public Information Officer Liliana Lopez wrote in an email response: “Montgomery County Public Schools has received the latest report form the Office of the Inspector General (OIG). We appreciate the time and effort invested by the OIG in this investigation. We take their findings very seriously and view them as an opportunity to strengthen our current processes.”

Montgomery County Council Vice President Kate Stewart, who chairs the council’s Audit Committee, said the findings of the OIG’s report are important.

“We need to understand what happened to make sure it doesn’t get repeated, and it is addressed,” Stewart said, adding that the report is about “making sure the public trusts the processes in place, and that we’re going to be following them.”

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Kate Ryan

As a member of the award-winning WTOP News, Kate is focused on state and local government. Her focus has always been on how decisions made in a council chamber or state house affect your house. She's also covered breaking news, education and more.

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