The state agreed to pay a New York consulting firm $100,000 to settle a claim for a contract some thought had expired.
Leeds Global Partners, the New York firm that helped reorganize the Education Department “and create policies and procedures that promote student achievement in Connecticut” sued the state Education Department for paying only part of $200,000 it claimed it was owed for work it did past the due date of the original contract. Jonathan Gyurko, the consulting company’s co-founder, was instrumental in negotiating the 2012 education reform package on behalf of Democratic Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s administration.
When the contract expired in March 2012, the lawsuit claims Gyurko was given assurances by Education Department staff that if he continued to work he would be paid for his services — an additional three months past the end date.
“The Department of Education, including the Commissioner Stefan Pryor, CFO Brian Mahoney, and Project Manager Emily Byrne repeatedly told representatives of Leeds Global Partners, LLC that it was authorized to make its agreement with Leeds Global Partners, LLC and . . . it had both the authority and ability to pay for Leeds Global Partners, LLC’s continued services,” according to the complaint. “These assurances were unequivocal.”
The additional services Leeds provided to the state were rendered between April 27, 2012, and June 30, 2012. Leeds received permission from the Claims Commissioner in 2013 to file a lawsuit against the state.
“There is no dispute that these consultants provided services to the state Department of Education and were entitled to compensation for doing so,” Jaclyn Falkowski, a spokeswoman for Attorney General George Jepsen’s office, said Monday. “We believe this settlement fairly resolves their claim for compensation for services rendered.”
A judge still needs to sign off on the stipulated settlement filed last month in Hartford Superior Court by Leeds and the state.
“We are pleased that all parties have been able to reach a reasonable resolution,” Kelly Donnelly, a spokeswoman for the Education Department, said Monday.
It’s unclear based on the lawsuit if the no-bid contract for the work in the stipulated agreement was made through the State Education Resource Center or SERC, which was not named as a defendant.
In 2012, the Connecticut Post reported that Leeds Global Partners received its contract without going through the bidding process. A whistleblower complaint was filed in April of that year questioning its contract with the state.
State auditors released a report in February 2013 in which they said SERC is a state entity operating in a gray area without “state agency requirements for transparency and accountability.”
Donnelly said recent legislation headed to the governor’s desk establishing SERC as a quasi-public agency changes how future contracting is handled.
“This new legislative definition strengthens accountability and serves to advance this important organization’s work in support of public education in this state,” Donnelly said.
But advocates for good government aren’t impressed with the legislation.
Tom Swan, executive director of the Connecticut Citizens Action Group that filed the April 2012 whistleblower complaint, testified against the legislative proposal making SERC a quasi-public agency.
“Connecticut’s history of corrupt behavior at quasi-public entities, combined with the State Department of Education’s track record of abuse of SERC, is a disaster waiting to happen,” Swan testified in March. “Connecticut taxpayers, education professionals, and students deserve better.”