DALLAS — Dallas Independent School District Superintendent Mike Miles has been accused of manipulating the district's bidding process and then trying to stop the resulting investigation.
While Miles denies the allegations, News 8 has obtained records that may give his critics cause for concern.
The issue came to a head on June 13 when the superintendent removed a contract approval from the school board agenda.
"We would like to have the contract, the RFP [request for proposal], to where we select more than one person or group that can do this, and that's the only reason for bringing it back," Miles told a visibly surprised school board.
While Superintendent Miles was within his rights to pull and postpone the contract, his communications chief, Rebecca Rodriguez, was outraged.
Rodriguez and a selection committee had recommended trustees award the contract to one approved firm, Practical Parent Education of McKinney.
In a complaint filed with DISD internal investigators, Rodriguez said she believed Miles and others expected the contract to go to another firm called The Concilio of Dallas. The Concilio had done work for DISD for nearly a decade, but a bid selection committee gave the McKinney firm higher marks.
But again, Superintendent Miles stopped the contract process, and evidence obtained by News 8 may shed light on the reason why.
On January 8, 2013, the head of The Concilio, Florencia Fortner, sent an e-mail to Mike Miles alluding to a future contract.
"I along with several of our Board members would like to visit with you again...", Fortner wrote.
On April 3 — one month before the district solicited bids — there was another e-mail from Fortner to Miles. "We are ready to begin work at the Dallas ISD..., " she wrote. "What else do you need from us to make this happen? We are extremely excited about serving Dallas ISD families and partnering with you."
Fortner said The Concilio's board of directors had even voted to "explore a name change ... inclusive of the DISD student body population we serve."
Gary Kerbow, a former purchasing director at DISD for four years, said this kind of contact prior to the bidding process is troubling.
"Any outside influence... any outside promise or assurance to a vendor prior to the evaluation process being completed and recommended to the Board of Trustees and an award being made would be totally inappropriate," Kerbow said. "Would that, should that preclude them from doing business or participating in the RFP process? Yes, absolutely."
At one point, Miles' administrative assistant, Andrea Rodriguez, told internal investigators with the Office of Professional Responsibility she was concerned about Miles' meeting with potential vendors.
"I think the superintendent met with Concilio representatives at least twice," Rodriguez said. "I said to the superintendent, 'You should not be meeting with them.'"
Another key figure at DISD interacting with The Concilio was Byron Sanders with the Dallas Education Foundation, an arm of the Chamber of Commerce. Records show Sanders became aggressively involved after learning The Concilio would have to compete for the DISD contract.
On April 23, 2013, Sanders e-mailed Miles' chief of staff. "There seems to have been a breakdown in communication between purchasing, communications, and The Concilio," Sanders told Miles.
Sanders also told DISD investigators in an affidavit, "I became aware that the communications department was only submitting one organization for the family services [contract]. That struck me as peculiar."
But according to Kerbow, DISD policies prohibit any kind of interference in the bid process.
"It would not be appropriate for any outside influence, or vendor, or individual for that matter, to come to speak to anyone in purchasing regarding 'what's being proposed, what's being recommended,'" Kerbow said.
The night before the school board's vote, Byron Sanders contacted Superintendent Miles, informing him that the contract was not being awarded to The Concilio, but to the McKinney firm.
The next day — on June 13 — Miles halted the contract, which has still not been awarded.
On June 14, communications chief Rebecca Rodriguez lodged a formal complaint accusing Miles of interfering in the bid process.
Records also indicate Miles allegedly wanted to fire Rodriguez immediately after she filed the complaint, but was talked out of it.
Miles has denied any wrongdoing.
Sanders said he can't comment due to the ongoing investigation.
The entire matter has been turned over to Dallas attorney Paul Coggins for an independent investigation.