Monday, April 15, 2013

Republicans Shouldn't Defend the Undefendable: Star Writer Reports on Tony Bennett's $1.7 Million Boondoggle

At the end of last week, Matt Tully of the Indianapolis Star reported on the purchase of high tech video conferencing equipment by then Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett for the Department of Education which cost taxpayers $1.7 million and appears to be unusable.   More on that in a second.

Matt Tully
I have been a big critic of Matthew Tully.  He's been phoning it in on his twice weekly columns for quite a long time.  Here though he does a straight news piece and does an excellent job. A few weeks ago, he did an article on conflicts of interest legislators have in their private employment and they political contributions they receive.   What is baffling is that when comes to Indianapolis local government though Tully steadfastly ignores much worse wastes of taxpayers money and conflicts of interest than what he reported on in the in the DOE and legislator piece.  Just days or so ago, Tully published a puff piece on Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard who has been on a several year extravagant spending spreed that has put that city deeply in debt.  Not a critical word emanated from Tully.

Now a snippet of the lengthy Tully piece that is certain worth reading in full:
The three window blinds, at nearly $1,500 each, are about all the Indiana Department of Education has to show for the $1.7 million it has shelled out for some of the most high-tech video conferencing equipment available.

Well, the blinds actually aren’t all. There also are two $6,500 high-definition desktop videoconferencing units, which, as of last week, didn’t mesh with the department’s broader telecommunications system and, so, were being used as what a department employee called “a very expensive computer monitor.”

The rest of the $1.7 million worth of equipment hasn’t been delivered, largely because the new education superintendent’s team says it can’t figure out why the former superintendent’s administration bought it.
“It’s frustrating,” said David Galvin, a top aide to first-year Superintendent of Public Instruction Glenda Ritz. “It’s just frustrating because it seems there wasn’t a lot of thought put into the purchase. A lot of tax dollars were spent on something that we don’t know how to use, and we don’t even know if it’s needed.”
Equally troubling is the conflict of interest Tully uncovered:
The purchase was finalized last summer, about three months before former Superintendent Tony Bennett lost his re-election bid. A three-page sales agreement includes dozens of pieces of high-tech equipment, software and services sold by California-based Cisco Systems, which at the time of the purchase employed Bennett’s former chief of staff.


... Bennett’s office signed the contract to buy the equipment about 18 months after his one-time chief of staff, Todd Huston, took a job as an education consultant and business development manager at Cisco. Huston, now a state lawmaker representing a Fishers-based district, continued to serve as a close political and policy adviser to Bennett while working for Cisco. In a recent interview, he said he acted as a facilitator between Cisco and Bennett’s office during the deal but added that he earned no commission from it.
In the comments section of the Star, I saw many conservatives and Republicans trying to justify the expenditure.  They should stop.  Just because someone is wearing a Republican uniform doesn't mean they are above criticism for an inexcusable conflict of interest and recklessly spending the taxpayers money.


guy77money said...

It's make the $86,000 Glenda Ritz spent on updating the offices chump change to this expenditure.

Pete Boggs said...

Where, ideologically & geographically, does the party of small government exist?

Independent 1 said...

I would like to play Devil’s advocate.
Suppose you were working on a case but you were fired shortly before trial. Your replacement then went on to lose the case and blamed everything on you. Would it be fair?
Bennett‘s side of the story is that he was a media specialist and that the system would have worked well. Ritz apparently wasn’t creative enough to build a working system. Should Bennett be held responsible for the shortcomings of Ritz?