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Federal probe into LA Unified procurement a first, says lawyer

Vanessa Romo | December 2, 2014

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FBI logoLA Unified’s General Counsel, David Holmquist, told reporters this afternoon that “there’s never been an investigation into a procurement process to my knowledge” involving the district.

As a busy day wore on, details began to emerge about the FBI’s interest in the district’s iPad program, the latest episode in a case study of how a well-intentioned effort can go terribly awry.

Holmquist said a U.S. Attorney issued a subpoena on Nov. 21, informing the district that a grand jury investigation was underway, aimed at how LA Unified decided that Apple and Pearson would win the competition to supply the district digital devices.

He said the FBI yesterday picked up 20 boxes of documents, which included memoranda, requests for proposals, responses for proposals, and “all the documentation that we have related to the Common Core Technology Project.”

The official subpoena was much more explicit, demanding the district turn over, among other things, “any and all paper records, digital records, audio records, and video records; all text documents, spreadsheets, graphs, charts, lists, rough drafts, final drafts, financial records.”

“We have not gotten any additional requests, but once we get them we’ll certainly comply immediately,” he said. “But we’ve given them all the documentation that we have related to the topic so I’m not sure what else they’re going to ask for.”

Holmquist said neither the FBI nor U.S. Attorney explained what prompted the investigation. Already, the district’s Inspector General, Ken Bramlett, has examined the program and so has the LA County District Attorney. After emails showed that former superintendent John Deasy had communicated with Apple and Pearson before the bidding process began, the school board asked the Inspector General to reexamine the matter.

“We are not expecting the IG’s report this calendar year,” Holmquist said. “I know that it has not been completed as of this point,” adding that no draft versions have been distributed to district officials so far as he knows.

Many of the documents sought by the FBI were in the possession of the Inspector General, Holmquist said. “I believe there were some additional documents that our Facility Services Division had to pull together to fully comply with the request, so that was it,” he added. “It was not an overly burdensome request because of the preparation we had done in advance of the IG’s evaluation.”

Holmquist said he talked to the U.S. Attorney last week but she “declined to tell me what this was about.”

He also said he has not talked to Deasy about the FBI’s interest in the program.

Board President Richard Vladovic became the first board member to speak publicly about the FBI investigation, putting out a statement late today, saying, “As Board President, I want to express my full support for Superintendent Cortines’ stated position regarding the FBI investigation. Speaking on behalf of the entire board, we pledge our full and complete support to federal authorities as they conduct the investigation.”

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