Andover Townsman, Andover, MA


February 20, 2014

Formal vote lacking on computer lease Some say laptop approval was previously granted


“We never voted on it. It never came to us. We found about it afterward.”

Part of the plan

Some town officials say it was not necessary to get School Committee or selectmen’s approval for the expanded lease because it was part of the “master plan” put together by the IT director and because Town Meeting had approved the overall program.

“When we procured the 160 Macs, we did so believing that the acquisition was consistent with the intended scope and prior approval of IT-1,” school Business Manager Paul Szymanski said. “Therefore, there was no need for a separate vote.”

Szymanski said in an earlier email that although the 160 Macs were not specifically included in the IT-1 Town Meeting request, members of the School Committee, along with other boards, knew about them.

“We explained the need for the additional units to the School Committee — the approving authority (and other boards and committees) and that the required purchase was to be in accordance with (chief information officer) Paul Puzzanghera’s master plan — that being to acquire said units on a four-year lease agreement,” he said.

Purchasing Agent Tom Watkins said a Town Meeting warrant article approved in 2011 allows the town or School Department to enter into contracts up to five years without Town Meeting approval. However, he added, three- to five-year contracts still require the approval of the School Committee or Board of Selectmen.

That approval, Watkins said, was provided “via the Capital Improvement Plan and process.”

Town Meeting voters did approve the original plan to lease the computers as part of the IT-1 Capital Improvements Plan article in 2012.

Town Counsel Tom Urbelis did not return two emails seeking comment about the matter.

A spokeswoman for the state inspector general’s office, which oversees the state procurement law and monitors fraud, waste and abuse, would not comment on the specifics of the case.

Generally, though, if a community does violate Chapter 30B, the public procurement law, the remedy is that the vendor should not be paid.

“A contract made in violation of this chapter shall not be valid,” reads Section 17B of the state procurement act. “And the governmental body shall make no payment under such contract. Minor informalities shall not require invalidation of a contract.”

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