School computer deal gets state's attention
Gov. Charlie Crist's legal counsel, Jason Gonzalez, today asked the inspector general of the state's Department of Education to investigate a northeast Florida school computer system deal worth as much as $3 million. Gonzalez wrote in his letter to Inspector Ed Jordan that the matter was brought to his attention by attorney Edwin Bayo, who provided e-mails and meeting notices suggesting that something was fishy in negotiations between the 15-school board North East Florida Education Consortium and Skyward, a Wisconsin-based firm that produces finance and student-tracking software for schools.
"These documents raise concerns of possible Sunshine Law and other ethics violations," Gonzalez wrote.
Bayo couldn't be reached for comment.
The most intriguing document: a Jan. 14 e-mail from Skyward vice president Kevin McFerrin and two consortium staffers who were among 10 scheduled to review the systems in the Badger State. McFerrin suggested they come up early.
"It will cost you nothing!" McFerrin wrote. "This will give you the time to come to the Northwoods. We can snowmobile in some beautiful areas and do some ice fishing -- even some snowshoeing at my hunting shack!"
McFerrin told us that the trip never happened, though 10 NEFEC members still flew up to check out the system. "Everything was above board," he said. "This is (instigated) by a vendor who's upset." McFerrin said Skyward currently operates in Okeechobee and St. Lucie counties.
The NEFEC's executive director, Bob Smith, said he was unaware of any problems with the computer system or the negotiations. He said no final decision on the contract had been made.