TOWNS & SCHOOLS COME TO PROCUREMENT AGREEMENT: Dr. Marguerite Rizzi, Superintendent of Schools, and Attorney Joseph Feaster, Jr., , announced Monday night (4/2) they had reached agreement on the .
This development comes less than a week after the School Committee authorized the superintendent to pursue against the Town in regards to procurement practices if need be.
In a joint conference call with About Town, Dr. Rizzi said, "Attorney Feaster has many things to do, and many demands on his time now that he has taken over as town manager. The School Committee and I are very grateful that he made the procurement issue a high priority. We are very happy. We should be able to push this whole issue aside and move on to more important things."
Feaster told me, "It was a matter of consensus. This is a town issue and we wanted to make this a seamless way to move the agenda of the town forward in every respect. We want to spend public dollars in a way that is good for the hard-working taxpayers of Stoughton."
As part of the agreement, the maximum amount that Dr. Rizzi can authorize for purchases will be increased from the $24,999 limit created by Francis T. Crimmins, Jr. to $100,000 through the end of the fiscal year.
Prior to December 2011, the Schools had procurement powers for the past 22 years.
Feaster added, "We'll put in process an information-sharing procedure. When the town accountant makes his review to pay the bills at selectmen's meetings, he will have all the information he needs regarding school purchases and contracts. We expect if it works out well, that we'll eliminate the upper limit on the Superintendent of Schools in the next fiscal year. As far as certain bills that have been in question, we have worked with the inspector general, and have agreed on a process to get those bills paid.”
As a result the School Committee voted Monday night to withhold filing any lawsuits or injunctions against the Town with the expectation an “amicable resolution” would be reached.
School Committee chair Joyce Husseini called the agreement a “win-win situation,” but clarified that she didn’t want the agreement portrayed as one side winning over another, but rather as a “reasonable resolution” for the Town and Schools.
The Schools still plan to present their article to which would change the language of the Town Charter to allowing the Town Manager to “purchase all supplies for every department of the Town, except [THE SCHOOL DEPARTMENT], or books for the public library,” more or less assuring that the schools would retain procurement rights under Town Managers.
As to why Crimmins had changed all the procurement processes around, and the question of the illegality the schools were accused of, Feaster replied, "Every Town Manager has to stand on their own two feet as to how they see things. I can't say what Town Manager Crimmins may have felt on this. In my view, he exercised his power as he saw fit. I have spoken with the former town manager, and my view is that the procurement situation should be resolved in this particular way. It is a matter of looking at things differently. It's more forward thinking. I cast no dispersion on the previous Town Manager."
When asked how Acting Chief Procurement Officer Lindsay Pope (who accused the schools of illegalities in a public meeting) will react to this agreement, Feaster replied, "Ms. Pope was out [Monday]. She is not aware of this, because it was worked out just before the school committee meeting tonight. But, is she supporting what I've stated? The answer is yes. I don't see where she would be in opposition to it. The Superintendent of Schools, the Board of Selectmen, School Committee, and I feel this is the way to go. Not to be brash about it, but on town side it is my call. All employees will follow that determination."
Dr. Rizzi said that, "We can now work together on a whole variety of areas. Everyone's work could be more forward thinking, and could have really exciting results."
Added Attorney Feaster, "This is an opportunity in the public trust to expend these dollars in the most responsible way. We have talked about IT, and we'll have joint discussion on training and other IT. The school department and town side may have the expertise that can be shared. Personally, I have dealt with zoning issues, and the former building authority directors. I know we can work cooperatively on a myriad of avenues. We can approach town meeting jointly. We'd love to see Town Meeting get down to two nights!"
(Mr. Feaster hasn't dealt with our Moderator, and the great number of speakers who wish to be heard on every issue, no matter how trivial. A dream. I'd say winning Megabucks may offer better odds!)
Feaster added one final comment, wearing his attorney's hat: "We want to jointly make an inquiry to the Attorney General and Inspector General. The question we have is, if you take people off the bid list, why do you have to rebid it again? We want to follow the regulatory process. This will be done cooperatively."
Dr. Rizzi added, "We have every reason to be optimistic that taxpayers will see their money well spent."
Stoughton Patch editor Jeffrey Pickette contributed reporting.