Colby-Clements responded, “I don’t remember whether you were there or not,” she told Birnbach. “You can disagree all you want, but it was brought to the budget subcommittee of the School Committee.”
Birnbach persisted that any major change — like the leasing of more computers than originally approved by Town Meeting — “should have come back to everybody (on the School Committee). Whether or not I was there is no excuse.”
An email from Superintendent of Schools Marinel McGrath to the Andover Townsman seems to support the contention that at least some members of the School Committee knew about the lease.
“I brought the situation forward to the School Committee chair, vice chair and budget subcommittee,” McGrath said, adding that they agreed the schools could use surplus funds left over at the end of fiscal year 2013 “to cover the shortfall in the technology purchase.”
It is unclear when that meeting took place or if minutes of it exist.
Current School Committee Chairman Dennis Forgue said he can’t remember when it came up or if there was ever a vote. But he said at some point “there was a suggestion” that the first year of the lease would be covered by surplus funds in the school budget, with the payments for the second and third years coming out of the general fund and the expense becoming part of the town manager’s Capital Improvement Plan request.
A vote does not appear to have happened during a regular School Committee meeting. School Committee minutes around the time the purchase order was filed at the end of June 2013 do not indicate any mention of a lease deal.
Minutes for the budget subcommittee are not available on the School Department’s website.
Vispoli said a vote should have been taken and recorded.
“It requires a vote of somebody,” he said. By entering into a four-year lease, he said, they are “encumbering money for future years. If you spend that money within the parameters of the budget, that’s one thing. But if you sign a contract beyond that period of the budget, that’s another.