August 17, 2015

APS deputy chief pitched contract to man fired for kickback scheme

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Albuquerque Public Schools

The deputy superintendent of Albuquerque Public Schools directly contacted the controversial former chief operating officer of a tech company for a possible assessment of the school district’s IT systems.

Albuquerque Public Schools

Albuquerque Public Schools

Deputy Superintendent Jason Martinez reached out to Bud Bullard, the former chief operating officer of Advanced Network Management for potential business with the school district.

Martinez and Bullard are no strangers. Both worked at Denver Public Schools at the same time. While Bullard was in charge of the district’s IT department, Martinez was the deputy director of academic operations from 2010 to 2012.

“In this particular case Mr. Martinez reached out to Mr. Bullard,” ANM CEO Raminder Mann told New Mexico Political Report in an interview, referring to his company’s contact with APS.

Bullard, who was not in a sales role with the company, then reached out to Advanced Network Management’s Account Manager Vance Krier about potential business with the school district.

“All discussions were around consolidation of IT infrastructure to reduce IT cost for APS,” Mann said.

The news follows days of controversy over the school district’s suspension of Chief Financial Officer Don Moya.

APS put Moya on leave Friday, Aug. 7. Earlier that week, Moya clashed with Martinez over the district’s plans for a comprehensive assessment of its IT system.

“The very fact that you originally proposed to use a state price agreement that did not accommodate the original scope and a vendor that had been fired from the Denver Public Schools for taking [E-Rate] kickbacks makes the entire process suspect,” Moya wrote to Martinez on Aug. 5.

The “kickbacks” refer to Bullard, who at Denver Public Schools took lavish gifts from contractors with that school district. Denver Public Schools fired Bullard in 2013, and one year later he went to work for Advanced Network Management as the company’s chief operating officer.

On the day he was placed on leave, Moya received a text message from Superintendent Luis Valentino apparently meant for Public Education Department secretary Hanna Skandera in which Valentino said that he was “going to go after” Moya for “running roughshot [sic]” and having too much control over the district’s finances.

APS has declined to say why Moya was put on leave, saying it does not comment on personnel situations.

Eventually, Bullard and the company concluded that APS’ search for a comprehensive assessment of its IT system went beyond their company’s capacity. The school district’s proposal was wide-reaching and included an overview of its payroll system.

APS is planning to issue a request for proposals for the IT assessment.

Moya questioned the need for the assessment.

“Seems like a huge waste of time, effort and tax payer [sic] dollars to attempt something this extensive outside the view of the personnel that have already spent many hours understanding, designing and building processes and procedures to make those systems what they are today,” Moya wrote his colleagues in an Aug. 6 email. “What am I missing here that is glaringly wrong?”

New Mexico Political Report reached out over the weekend and Monday morning to APS spokeswoman Monica Armenta, who didn’t return our phone calls and email seeking comment.

Mann said Advanced Network Management dropped discussions with APS on July 27.

Bullard resigned from the company two days later. Mann said he was “not at liberty to discuss” why Bullard left his company, but did say that it had nothing to do with APS.

“He’s a hard-working employee,” Mann said. “It was his decision to move on.”

Bullard came to the company nearly a year after the controversy with Denver Public Schools cost him his job. Mann said he hired him knowing “there was concerns about his past” that he was ready to put behind.

“He had a good handle on project management,” Mann said. “He did some major projects with Denver Public Schools which he managed very well.”

Mann added he felt his company is caught up in the middle of a controversy involving school politics.

“ANM has done nothing wrong and has nothing to hide as it relates to this or any other customer engagements,” he said.

Martinez, who more recently worked as an executive at textbook publisher Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, came to APS with Valentino earlier this summer.

Update: Story updated for clarity on the contact between Martinez and Bullard.