Convicted School Official Lands Job

    CONVICTED SCHOOL OFFICIAL LANDS JOB

[In Arkansas]

For Links to Other Articles in Ohio on Fischer see end of  this article:

 DeJong now has a $2.3  million contract in Arkansas to assess facilites for the entire state. Randall Fischer has signed the letter on Arkansas website requesting bids to do this work.  Act 90  gives the State of  Arkansas authority to take over all  "facility repairs, improvements, and construction along with technology improvements."  In a similar assessment in Ohio that  DeJong and Fischer are doing here in Arkansas,  the price tag came back as 16.5 billion. To put that in perspective, if  the estimate for Arkansas is even half that estimate,  it  would take about a 2.5 percent sales tax increase in Arkansas for 8 years to pay for that.

Following Article From Ohio Posted by permission of  Columbus Dispatch http://www.dispatch.com/  Emphasis added.

Posted by permission of  Columbus Dispatch http://www.dispatch.com/

Thursday, March 25, 2004

THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

CONVICTED SCHOOL OFFICIAL LANDS JOB
Man who oversaw Ohio construction to take on similar job in Arkansas

Arkansas officials say Randall Fischer's past isn't a problem.

By Jon Craig and Catherine Candisky
THE COLUMBUS DISPATCH

Eight months after his conviction for taking gifts from contractors to whom he gave millions in unbid work, the former chief of Ohio's school-construction program has landed a similar job in Arkansas.

Randall A. Fischer has been named program manager of a $10 million assessment of Arkansas' 5,700 public-school buildings.

"These are exciting times as the state of Arkansas has undertaken the initial steps to repair and rebuild its public K-12 school facilities,'' Fischer wrote in a letter soliciting applications from design professionals.

In 2002, Fischer resigned from his $95,680-a-year job as executive director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission after Dispatch stories about how he accepted free golf outings, meals and other perks from contractors who got the unbid contracts.

Fischer is working as a subcontractor for DeJong & Associates of Dublin and was one of the company's presenters during an interview with Arkansas officials.

While heading Ohio's school-construction program, Fischer gave DeJong more than $4 million in unbid consulting contracts, primarily to conduct assessments and determine the facility needs of Ohio school districts, including Columbus Public Schools.

The one-time aide to former Gov. George V. Voinovich -- who gave him the commission job -- last summer was found guilty in Franklin County Municipal Court of a pair of criminal ethics charges and given the maximum $1,250 fine. Fischer could not be reached for comment.

Some Arkansas lawmakers who approved hiring Fischer said they were aware of his troubles in Ohio, but they aren't concerned.

"It came up but it did not seem to be anything problematic for what we are trying to do,'' said Rep. Joyce Elliott, a Little Rock Democrat who is co-chairman of the Joint Committee on Educational Facilities. "We have checks and balances in place.''

Sen. Shane Broadway of Bryant, also a Democrat and a committee co-chairman, said Fischer will not be in position to award contracts.

"The joint committee decides how to spend the money and who gets a contract. No one person decides,'' Broadway said.

He also noted that state employees are forbidden from accepting gifts of more than $100 and anyone who deals with awarding contracts must submit financial disclosure statements.

The lone minority Republican on the 14-member facilities committee, however, said he was unaware of Fischer's conviction in Ohio and the crimes relate to concerns he's had about Arkansas' program, which some estimate could cost at least $1 billion.

"I had some reservations about vague projections of cost, competitive bidding and change orders, but this is news to me,'' said Berryville Rep. Phillip Jackson.

Like Ohio, Arkansas has launched a school-building program in response to a state court order that found its school-funding system unconstitutional.

To determine building needs, the legislature's facilities committee last month hired DeJong to oversee the assessment.

DeJong will be paid $2.3 million, with more than $7 million set aside for design professionals who will visit schools and conduct surveys. The study is expected to be completed this fall.

While heading the Ohio commission, Fischer disclosed no gifts from DeJong on financial disclosure statements, which top officials must file with the state. However, one of his expense reports revealed that the company booked a Boston-Columbus plane ticket for him for $219.50. A commission spokesman said neither Fischer nor his assistant was able to book the flight but Fischer paid for the ticket -- although he could not provide a receipt.

An investigation by Ohio Inspector General Thomas P. Charles blasted Fischer for unilaterally approving a new school building for the Adena school district near Chillicothe through a $707,000 change order rather than competitive bidding.

The 2003 report also criticized the former director for allowing thousands of purchases to be made without competitive bidding in violation of the agency's rules.

Fischer also selected DeJong to host the state's annual Ohio Builds conference for school-district officials and contractors.

DeJong's sponsorship angered some contractors who competed with the Dublin company for business. They complained that the role gave DeJong an unfair advantage with school districts that later might turn to the company for contract work.

After Fischer resigned, the state dumped DeJong as conference host.

Arkansas' contract with DeJong also includes two other sub-consultants from Dublin: Summit Consulting Services, where Fischer has worked since leaving his state job in August 2002, and Fanning/Howey Associates, which developed Ohio's school design manual.

jcraig@dispatch.com

ccandisky@dispatch.com

Photo
Arkansas officials say Randall Fischer's past isn't a problem.

Links to Other Stories from Ohio:

Fischer - Majority of Contracts Awarded to  Campaign Contributors under Fischer

The 19 firms that made political contributions received nearly $148 million in contracts; architects and managers that didn't contribute received about $18.5 million.

 

Time Line of  Fischer's Problems and Resignation in Ohio Prior to Ethics Conviction

 

Fischer's Cozy Relationship With Lobbyists

The businesses represented by the ex-Voinovich staff members received more than $25 million in contracts -- most of them unbid and approved at the time solely by Fischer according to article below.

DeJong and Fischer Connection in Ohio and Arkansas

Randall Fischer - Ohio Ethics Commission Press Release on his conviction.

Ohio Allocated $23.1 billion for Facilities - Based on a Similar Court Decision and Facilities Assessment  to Arkansas.

 

 

 

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