$1.8+ million contracts Mass. gave to Illinois consultant prompts state probe – Boston 25 News

After 25 Investigations reported that Samantha Aigner-Treworgy, Commissioner of the Department of Early Education and Care, was resigning following an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General, our team exclusively received an official document shedding light on the investigation.

The document, provided by a source, suggested the IG had questions about contracts the EWG had awarded to an Illinois-based consultant who 25 investigations have revealed has a connection to the commissioner.

Our team combed state databases and confirmed that the EEC, the agency that regulates day care in Massachusetts, spent nearly $2 million in taxpayer dollars over a two-year period, including the pandemic shutdown, to consulting firm Aim and Arrow .

An online review of public records in Massachusetts and Illinois revealed that Commissioner Aigner-Treworgy worked in educational agencies in Illinois that also worked with Aim and Arrow founder M. Elizabeth Cole before coming to Massachusetts in 2019.

After his websiteAim and Arrow “builds the capabilities of leaders, teams, organizations and systems to create greater impact.”

We asked former Inspector General and current Pioneer Institute Research Director Greg Sullivan to review our findings and the four pages we have received showing that the IG investigation began nearly a year ago and pertaining to communications between Aigner -Treworgy and two other government employees and Aim Focused and Arrow executives.

“I can see from the document request that they are looking for any document related to their procurement,” said Sullivan, who spent 20 years with the state’s office of the inspector general, leading investigations into financial bid fraud.

He says it appears IG is investigating the bidding process for the contracts Aim and Arrow have been awarded, particularly how they were awarded and the work the consultancy provided to the state.

Investigative reporter and anchor Kerry Kavanaugh examined state databases and found that EWG had paid Aim and Arrow $1,804,053 for “departmental consulting services” between November 2019 and November 2021. The bulk of the payments — $981,650 — came in 2020, when most state agencies and daycares were closed because of the pandemic. The first payment to Aim and Arrow was $329,300.80 in November 2019, state records show. However, this payment shows up in the fiscal year 2020 records.

“That’s not a small amount of money. This would constitute a very significant case of bid fraud,” Sullivan said.

According to records on the state’s Operational Services Division website, Aim and Arrow is on a list of Massachusetts licensed providers.

But, Sullivan says, that doesn’t mean an agency can automatically hand over a contract. Bid and offer rules still apply.

“You can’t just pick a provider. You can’t say I want that person to award the prize, there has to be a competition,” he said, adding that contracts should be awarded on a “best value” basis.

We contacted the former commissioner for comment on the IG investigation. Speaking of her attorney, M. Patrick Moore Jr. of the Boston-based law firm Hemenway & Barnes, she said, “I have been honored to serve as the early education and care officer and I am so proud of the achievements of the department as well.” during the global pandemic. When I first served as Commissioner, as part of the agency’s planning process, we worked with an outside consultant to review the strategic objectives and operations for EEC and I am confident that the IG will find that this consultant is in a transparent procurement process was set. ”

25 Investigations also contacted Aim and Arrow for comment on its contracts and work for EEC. In an email, Founder and Managing Partner Elizabeth “Eli” Cole said:

“Aim and Arrow is a national consultancy that supports government and the nonprofit sector to achieve sustainable change at scale. The company participated in an open procurement process and was honored to have been selected to support the strategic planning of the Department of Early Childhood Education and Care. Aim and Arrow is proud to work with EEC’s exceptional staff and extensive community of stakeholders to improve access to affordable care for Massachusetts’ children and families.”

“You just have to skip a few steps and give a company an advantage with a friend or a business partner and suddenly they’re multi-millionaires,” Sullivan explains the state’s strict procurement rules.

Sullivan adds that the fact that Aim and Arrow have continued to be paid during the COVID shutdown raises some questions. He says that during this period, when the state’s attention was primarily focused on fighting the pandemic, proper oversight of contracts probably didn’t happen. In his opinion, the IG is therefore increasingly examining state contracts.

“Taxpayers should really care. That’s money the Massachusetts taxpayers paid for,” Sullivan said.

We contacted the IG office about the EEC investigation, but a spokesman declined to comment.

We also reached out to EEC and its CEO. They referred us to comments by Governor Charlie Baker to 25 Investigates’ Kerry Kavanaugh the day after Aigner-Treworgy announced her resignation. Baker defended her and denied any connection between her resignation and the IG investigation.

“Commissioner Sam has done a great job working at a very difficult time, particularly for the early care and education community here in the Commonwealth during the course of the pandemic. I don’t know much about the inspector general. But the bottom line is, you know, if they ask for something, we give it to them. But it has nothing … one has nothing to do with the other,” Baker said at the time.

Aigner-Treworgy officially resigned March 8 during an EEC board meeting meeting, where board members praised their leadership during the pandemic. YOU’RE WELCOME

At that meeting, Amy Kershaw, currently Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance, was named Acting Commissioner of the EEC, effective March 28. Until then, Education Secretary James Peyser will serve as Acting Commissioner of the EEC.

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