in Houston, Texas
HISD's Terry Grier calls contracting process into question, says improper influence is hampering awarding of jobs by district
Thursday, May 20, 2010, 06:06PM CST
By Lynn Walsh

HISD Superintendent Terry Grier continues to question the district's process for awarding contracts, saying that the rule-based process has been hampered by influence.

Grier raised the specter of improper influence during last week's board meeting, and again Thursday at a board workshop.
 
His comments last week came after the board gave the OK to begin negotiations with four companies within the Job Order Contract program. The program provides for repairs and small construction at various Houston ISD facilities. KBR, Fort Bend Mechanical, RHJ-JOC and Jamail & Smith Construction were all awarded contracts.
 
Without laying blame on anyone specifically, Grier spoke in strict terms, saying the integrity of the process had to be preserved.
 
"I have seen a procurement department made up of independent folks rate bids from a variety of different companies across the district to do a lot of different work," Grier said last week. "And then I've seen staff -- just for whatever reason -- pull names off of a list and put other names back on a list, (with) no rhyme or reason except, quite frankly, influence where influence has no business coming from."


At a board workshop Thursday, Trustee Anna Eastman asked why the agenda item for a renovation contract for three area elementary schools was held from the monthly board meeting and moved to the board workshop meeting.
 
Grier said he wanted to make sure that the proposed contract was handled in line with state law and HISD policy. He said the entire procurement process, including looking at the members sitting on the oversight committee, needs to be evaluated.
 
Grier declined to elaborate on his comments, said Michele Pola, his chief of staff.
 
"The district staff needs to have a full understanding of what the law is. We have to make sure we review the whole process and then practice the process," Chief Financial Officer Melinda Garrett said.
 
The board voted unanimously to approve the construction contracts for $140,000 in projects at John Durkee, Walter W. Scarborough and John G. Osborne elementary schools. 

Contact Lynn Walsh at lynn@texaswatchdog.org or 713-228-2850. On Twitter @lwalsh.
Comments
Lisa
Tuesday, 09/07/2010 - 04:48PM

We dealt with the same thing at FBISD. Grier is correct, use a process that is in place, not an arbitrary assigning of vendors without reason.

Joe A.
Monday, 01/30/2012 - 07:55PM

Lisa you are correct but I believe that is because FBISD and HISD are both utilizing the same contractor. This by the way happens to be a license professional engineering firm with the State of Texas. As such, it would be interesting to know why the school districts are able to procure engineering firms as JOC contractors. HB 628 and the Texas Board of professional engineers seem to indicate that the engineer should not perform as the contractor. But, again, Jamail is a registered engineering firm in Texas yet holds several cooperative purchasing contracts which are also in contradiction with the procurement laws. It's time all these districts qualify their vendors better. Hire an engineer for engineering services and a contractor for JOC services. Why is it so difficult to do it right. There are plenty of companies to choose from that do not have conflicts and operate ethically. Ethics and compliance should be focus one at school districts if they believe they teach our future generation correctly by example!

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