State Superintendent of School Tom Luna told state purchasing officer Sarah Hilderbrand, “We were invited by a vendor to go to that vendor's location” and hear from “a parade of these international experts” on online education, “to basically be their guests. We would travel at our expense, not at their expense, but it raised a lot of red flags to the point where we at the last minute canceled it. I think they understood. I think they were frustrated, we were frustrated. … How do we do the homework to make sure that the recommendations that we move forward are going to, that the water's going to get to the end of the row?”
Hilderbrand responded, “I can tell you from a procurement perspective, we discourage site visits when we are even at the beginning of the procurement process. In the last 15 years I've seen too many projects derailed by just the appearance of preferring one vendor over another.”
Rep. Reed DeMordaunt, R-Eagle, commented, “It's getting grayer all the time.”
Luna said, “I've had more than one vendor make it clear to me that they are watching this very, very closely, and they'll take action” if they think they're not getting a fair shot at “providing products and services to the state.” Luna said he doesn't want the task force to go to all this work, only to end up in a protracted lawsuit over the procurement process.
Betsy Z. Russell covers Idaho news from The Spokesman-Review's bureau in Boise.
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