Courtesy of the Teachers College at Columbia University

Three education consulting firms sued the state this week claiming the Department of Education failed to pay them in full for their work helping the Malloy administration with its reform efforts in 2012.

Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” says it has only been paid half of the $200,000 it was promised by the state, according to the complaint.

Leeds Global Partners is a division of Leeds Equity Partners. According to Leeds Global’s website, it “is an education services and advisory firm.”

Jonathan Gyurko, one of Leeds Global’s co-founders, worked as director of charter schools in the New York City Department of Education and was intimately involved in negotiations between the Malloy administration and the two teacher unions last year. The company’s relationship with the state was controversial. In 2012, the Connecticut Post reported that the company received its contract without going through the bidding process. A whistleblower complaint was filed last April questioning its contract with the state.

It’s unclear if the lawsuit filed this week is referencing the same no-bid contract that went through the State Education Resource Center, which claims to be a nonprofit set up to support local and regional school boards. State auditors released a report in February in which they said SERC is a state entity operating in a gray area without “state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.”

The State Education Resource Center was not named as a defendant in any of the three lawsuits.

One of the other two firms suing the state is Education First Consulting, the Washington-based company that helped design the new teacher evaluation system. Education First claims the state owes it about $94,000.

“The State of Connecticut never questioned the quality or value of the services provided by Education First that benefited the State of Connecticut, students, educators, and schools,” the lawsuit states.

The Education Department has not rendered any payments to the group since April 2012.

New Leaders Inc., a New York nonprofit in charge of developing the principal evaluation for the Education Department, claims it is owed more than $41,500 out of the $50,000 in services provided.

“New Leaders relied on the repeated assurances by the Department of Education, including Project Team Manager Emily Bryne, that it would be paid the full value of its work, and thus New Leaders continued to provide services to the state of Connecticut through the Department of Education through June 2012 on the basis of these assurances,” the complaint states.

The three plaintiffs received permission from the state Claims Commissioner to file a lawsuit earlier this month.

The Attorney General’s office will provide legal representation for the state Department of Education.

“As is our responsibility, we represented the State Department of Education before the Claims Commissioner and stipulated to suit in state court,” Susan Kinsman, a spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen, said. “As a result, the vendors filed complaints in Superior Court, and we are working towards a resolution between the state and vendors. Because these are pending matters, we have no further comment at this time.” 

All three consulting firms are represented by James Sullivan of Howard, Kohn, Sprague, and Fitzgerald in Hartford.