We’re not sure if two Lyons-Brookfield School District 103 officials need to tender their resignations for choosing to hire a vendor who wasn’t the lowest-priced option for fire extinguisher inspections and maintenance.
After all, the two administrators whose heads were called for by a board member last week may have excellent reasons for choosing what appears to be a more expensive vendor for the service (which will cost the district between $3,000 and $5,000, which is not exactly a king’s ransom in the large scheme of things).
Perhaps Superintendent Mary Jo Vladika — who apparently doesn’t have a working phone in her office, because, God knows, she doesn’t seem to have the ability to return calls — and Director of Business Kevin Slattery have a laundry list of reasons for the choice, beyond the fact that the district has been doing business with the same vendor for close to 50 years without ever checking to see if anyone else can do the job for a better price.
If so, you’d think they’d have provided those reasons to someone before getting called on the carpet by an elected official. We’ll all find out on Nov. 10, when the board is expected to discuss the administrators’ documentation.
What the episode does reveal, though, is just how ingrained the tradition of sidestepping purchasing policy is in District 103.
The only thing surprising is that the administrators chose to go ahead and sidestep policy so soon after the board of education mandated they start hewing to those policies. That directive came in the wake of an expensive, year-long audit of two projects where it’s clear officials played fast and loose with purchasing policies.
In its aftermath, the maintenance director went out and got price quotes for the fire extinguisher service contract and presented them to the superintendent and director of business.
But, without explanation, a longtime favored vendor was chosen anyway. What makes things even dicier is that the school board has a written policy that states no employee of the district should benefit either directly or indirectly from any entity doing business with the district.
So, it’s a little uncomfortable to note, I’m sure, that the wife of the fire extinguisher company is an accounts payable clerk/secretary to the director of business.
The company’s owner says his wife has no purchasing authority, which is true. But her boss does. And, anyway, there’s that written policy about “directly or indirectly” benefiting. So many rules.
Here’s the deal: Whatever practices were accepted in the past, the elected school board — the representatives of the people who pay the taxes to fund district operations and who in the past generously voted themselves a tax hike — have said administrators must follow policies adopted by the board.
It’s not too tough a directive to follow. Sure, it may mean more advance planning and more time collecting price quotes and bids. But that’s the path this school board has chosen to take.
And those in the employ of the school board ought to not take those kinds of directives lightly, or they’ll find themselves being embarrassed in public by elected officials who might not like it.