De Soto board signs off on superintendent’s million-dollar technology purchase

10/04/2013 4:44 PM

10/04/2013 4:44 PM

The De Soto school board agreed in a 5-2 vote Friday morning to pay almost $1 million for a wireless technology system that was never competitively bid.

In an early morning meeting, Superintendent Doug Sumner apologized for confusion surrounding the purchase.

“Nobody regrets this more than I do,” Sumner said.

The vote ends almost two months of hand-wringing over what to do with the equipment Sumner bought for $926,624 without seeking bids. Board policy requires bids for products that cost more than $20,000.

Some board members also thought state law might have been violated.

“A mistake was made,” said board member Bill Fletcher, who along with Scott Hancock voted no. “Was the law violated? I don’t know. It’s up to the (Johnson County) district attorney, and we never got a ruling from him. For the taxpayers, we need to move forward.”

The district attorney’s office has declined to comment on the matter.

The board voted in July to move ahead with a wireless Internet system that will allow students to bring devices such as cellphones and tablet computers to work with at school. Less than two weeks later, the equipment had been delivered. It’s been sitting in an old schoolhouse the district uses as a warehouse.

Eventually, Sumner voided the check, but on Wednesday, he said, he talked with manufacturer Cisco Meraki and learned that the company would not take back the equipment.

The board had two choices at its emergency meeting Friday — sign off on the purchase or withhold approval. Either way, the district would have to pay the almost $1 million tab.

Sumner told the board he would follow the $20,000 policy in the future.

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