Feds Investigating Leon County School District's Contracting Policy

Oct 30, 2014

Jackie Pons speaking with a constituent at a Village Square event in 2013.
Credit Village Square

The Leon County School District is under investigation for how it decided who got construction contracts as far back as 2007.  The FBI and a federal grand jury are handling the inquiry.

Federal officials are investigating how the Leon County School District awarded contracts at 17 of the district's nearly 50 schools.  As the Tallahassee Democrat reported in April, allegations surfaced that the district had steered projects toward contributors for Superintendent Jackie Pons’ re-election campaign. 

Incoming school board member Alva Striplin will be sworn in next month and has no connection with the contracts in question.  But she says it’s important to be more transparent in the future, regardless of what the investigation turns up.

“I’d like to see maybe a checklist,” Striplin says, “a very visible transcript of why a person was chosen for a particular project, whether it be over the threshold of $2 million or under – up to a certain point.”

The district admits it split projects into contracts of less than $2 million in an effort to avoid the competitive bidding process required under state law.  The practice has led to criticism from state authorities and allegations of misconduct.  But Pons defends the action as a way to speed up construction and support multiple local contractors.