DC Public Schools (DCPS)

DC Inspector General Launches Criminal, Administrative Investigations Into DCPS Contracts

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As the D.C. Council tries to figure out how vendors got paid on 36 unapproved D.C. Public Schools contracts, the News4 I-Team confirmed Council now has a company investigating the mess.

The I-Team confirmed the D.C. Inspector General is investigating as well. Depending on what the OIG finds, DCPS staffers could be disciplined all the way up to termination, and some could be criminally charged. Since some of the special education contracts are covered by federal law, any violations can result in a two-year prison sentence.

DCPS did not reply to the I-Team’s requests for comment on the OIG investigation.

The questions started in February when DCPS tried to get a food service contract approved despite already paying on it. Any contract over $1 million must be approved by Council before any money is spent. DCPS then found 36 such contracts.

At the same time the OIG is investigating, the D.C. Council is considering stripping DCPS of its independent authority to enter into contracts. At a hearing Thursday morning, DCPS Chancellor Lewis Ferebee told Councilwoman Brianne Nadeau the fault for the contracting errors lies within DCPS.

Nadeau and Chairman Phil Mendelson introduced the bill that would give DCPS contracting control to D.C. Office of Contracting and Procurement.

Ferebee told the hearing he took “full responsibility” for the errors but wants DCPS to maintain control.


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In testimony, Ferebee told Council, “DCPS fully respects the role of Council approval in the contract review process, and on behalf of the district, I sincerely apologize for DCPS’ noncompliance with the requirements to submit contracts for approval. It was unacceptable. I take this issue very seriously and am committed to ensuring our process is fully corrected moving forward… Over the past few months, we have been working urgently to completely overhaul our contracting practices.”

He called it “critical” that DCPS maintain contracting authority.

Under questioning, Ferebee and DCPS told committee members:

  • He has started a “complete overhaul” of the contracting process, including hiring a cabinet-level staffer to oversee fiscal operations at DCPS and direct a newly formed Office of Fiscal Strategy.
  • Nine of 21 positions in the DCPS Procurement Office are currently vacant.
  • Until recently, contracts were kept at DCPS in paper form – including one $7.5 million special education contract, which now cannot be found.
  • There is no “checkbox’’ in DCPS systems to indicate a contract has been approved by Council.

After initially not saying anything about who or how many staffers were punished in the ongoing investigation, Ferebee finally admitted four people connected to contracting are “no longer with DCPS.” Ferebee wouldn’t say who they are, what their positions were, what their discipline was, if any of them were terminated or when the investigation may be over. As for a timeline, he only said it will be complete this summer. When pushed, Ferebee said he would have DCPS’ General Counsel reply to Council.

DCPS did not answer any of the I-Team’s questions about staffer discipline.

After the hearing, a spokesperson at a Council office called the chancellor’s answers on discipline “evasive.”

A second Council hearing is scheduled for May 30 to examine how the contracts slipped through the process.

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