Baltimore County schools awarded contract to group that had paid Dallas Dance

and Contact ReporterThe Baltimore Sun

The Baltimore County school system last year awarded two contracts worth $1.5 million to a research organization that had previously paid former superintendent Dallas Dance as a consultant, records show.

Dance did not disclose to the county that he had worked for the research organization, American Institutes for Research, as is required. His $1,500 payment by the company for consulting work in 2015 is detailed in last month’s indictment of Dance by a Baltimore County grand jury.

The consulting job was the second instance in which Dance has done work for a company or organization that would later get contracts from the school system without disclosing his relationship with the company.

The county school system ethics rules do not allow a public official to be paid by companies doing business with the school system or negotiating a contract with the school system. In this case, AIR got a contract two years after Dance had worked for them as a consultant.

Dance was indicted last month on four counts of perjury for failing to disclose nearly $147,000 in pay he received for private consulting with several companies, school districts and AIR beginning in 2012.

The criminal charges brought by the Maryland State Prosecutor’s office each carry maximum penalties of 10 years. A hearing is scheduled for March 8 in Baltimore County Circuit Court, according to Dance’s attorney, Andrew Graham.

He declined further comment. Dance could not be reached for comment.

The charges against Dance allege he negotiated a no-bid contract between the school system and Chicago-based SUPES Academy in 2012 while he was earning approximately $90,000 from the company without telling the school district.

The indictment also states that he failed to disclose $1,500 he received as a consultant from AIR in 2015. The charges do not mention that the Washington-based nonprofit institute received two contracts each worth $750,000 last year.

The Baltimore Post first reported that the school system had a $750,000 contract with AIR.

The contracts with the seven-decades-old American Institutes for Research were both awarded after Dance had announced his resignation in April. One was awarded after he had already left his position on June 30.

The first contract, a four-year deal worth $750,000, was awarded on May 9 by using an existing contract awarded by the Chicago school system. Such an award is known as “piggybacking” because the school system does not do its own bidding process but piggybacks on existing contracts from school systems elsewhere in the country. Under the contract, AIR will “provide evaluation services for the Second Language Acquisition program” in grades 3-8. The school system began teaching Spanish in the elementary grades several years ago in an expansion of its foreign language offerings.

The second contract, a five-year deal worth $750,000, was awarded on July 11 and was purchased off of an existing agreement with the Cleveland, Ohio school system. Under the contract, AIR will provide a “systemic needs assessment of the social emotional learning environment” in Baltimore County schools.

“We are confident in our procurement and purchasing practices and received clean audits and awards consistently for two decades,” said Mychael Dickerson in a statement. “Still, in September, the interim superintendent called for an independent external audit to confirm our sound practices and to reassure public trust.”

AIR describes itself on its website as the “world’s largest behavioral and social science research and evaluation organizations.”

“American Institutes for Research frequently works with consultants as part of its delivery of services to clients,” according to a statement from the nonprofit. “The consultants are independent contractors and are not employees of AIR. Thus, they are solely responsible for reporting any payments they receive from AIR to other organizations or businesses to which they are affiliated and to local and federal tax authorities. Additionally, any organizations that contract for work with AIR are responsible for following appropriate procurement procedures, policies, and regulations.”

ddonovan@baltsun.com

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