More Hard Questions about the Extravagant $14 Million Dollar “No Bid” Apple Lease for the Rowan-Salisbury Schools

Posted on March 16, 2017

Todd Paris, Staff Writer and Salisbury Attorney

♦ Readers may remember last week’s County Commission hearing where Moody and Josh Wagner appeared in front of the Rowan County Commission and requested approval for $14 million dollars in taxpayer funds to renew the extravagant lease with Apple for the “one on one” take home computers that resulted in a lot of raised eyebrows.

While Commissioners Greene and Klusman seemed ready to join Chairman Greg “Lynching” Edds at the snap of his fingers for their usual rubber stamp vote. Commissioners Caskey and Pierce began to ask “probing” questions something unheard of in a school system with a lot alarm bells. Why was there no bidding process, since there were better less costlier computers? Why we were not getting our money’s worth from this extravagant financial waste as far as state test scores are concerned? Gosh it seems a clear violation of our beloved Chairman Edd’s “Declaration of Co-dependence” in that they did not resolves this controversy “quietly.” How dare they conduct public debate!

For your instruction and edification:

Here’s what I predict Wagner and Superintendent Moody will quote, if somebody preps them, next Monday at Commission meeting. North Carolina law starts out saying:

§ 143-129. Procedure for letting of public contracts.
(a) Bidding Required. – No construction or repair work requiring the estimated expenditure of public money in an amount equal to or more than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) or purchase of apparatus, supplies, materials, or equipment requiring an estimated expenditure of public money in an amount equal to or more than ninety thousand dollars ($90,000) may be performed, nor may any contract be awarded therefor, by any board or governing body of the State, or of any institution of the State government, or of any political subdivision of the State, unless the provisions of this section are complied with; provided that The University of North Carolina and its constituent institutions may award contracts for construction or repair work that requires an estimated expenditure of less than five hundred thousand dollars ($500,000) without complying with the provisions of this section.

However, there is an exception under the same statute, which reads:

(e) Exceptions. – The requirements of this Article do not apply to:

(6) Purchases of apparatus, supplies, materials, or equipment when: (i) performance or price competition for a product are not available; (ii) a needed product is available from only one source of supply; or (iii) standardization or compatibility is the overriding consideration. Notwithstanding any other provision of this section, the governing board of a political subdivision of the State shall approve the purchases listed in the preceding sentence prior to the award of the contract.

Here’s “the rub.” Did the Commission by approving the Apple contract several years back realize they would be tied in for “evermore?” Commissioner Pierce clearly made the point that other operating systems and equipment were certainly available through Chrome Books and others and that such systems are available from multiple sources and suppliers.  RFP also made the point that that Apple is clearly “not standard” in education across the United States and that most business sources use Windows and not Apple operating systems.

Moody and Wagner have, in my opinion failed to carry the burden of proof that the Apple contract meets the standards of N.G. Gen. Stat. § 143-129 and subsection (e)(6) and that such contract must be open for public bid under state law.

Unless Edds arrives to impose his normal rubber stamp “yes” vote with his normal Klusman and Greene “ya-ya” vote, this contract should be rejected and the matter be placed for public bid. Even if it does get rubber stamped by the three out of five, “a higher authority” should be summoned to opine on the questionable legality at hand and take a hard look at any possible conflicts of interest.

“Since Apple is creating generations of future customers at taxpayer expense, they should have shown a bit more generosity in their negotiations with the school system. Perhaps, had they had to compete with other tech giants like Google (Chrome) and Samsung, they might have been motivated to offer a better “discount.”
— Chuck Hughes

“The Chrome units are far more flexible, offer more storage (which is very important for those families that can’t afford internet at home), and far less expensive.”
— Kent Winrich

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