DOJ to Dallas ISD: Pay Up. And Say Adios to $150 Million in Federal Funding Requests.
This just in from the U.S. Department of Justice's press department: The government and the Dallas Independent School District have settled their dispute involving the misuse of funds provided to the district for the so-called E-Rate program, created in 1996 to give "affordable access to telecommunications services for all eligible schools and libraries, particularly those in rural and economically disadvantaged areas." And for the punishment listed below, you can thank, in part, one Ruben Bohuchot, the former Dallas Independent School District associate superintendent for technology sentenced to 11 years in years in prison last November -- because, look, a yacht ain't a fishing boat, so sorry, pal.
Charles Miller, spokesman for the DOJ's civil division, tells Unfair Park he will see if there are further details the government can provide concerning the findings of its investigation; he will get back to us shortly. But in the meantime, here's the most important part of the DOJ's announcement:
Under the terms of the settlement, the DISD will relinquish more than $150 million in requests for federal funds, and will pay a total of $750,000. ... The United States alleged that the DISD provided false information to the E-Rate program by engaging in non-competitive bidding practices for E-Rate contracts. The United States also contended that school district officials improperly received gratuities from technology vendors, including trips, meals, golfing and the free use of a yacht. The school district's former chief technology officer, Ruben Bohuchot, was convicted in July 2008 on bribery charges stemming from the receipt of federal funds under the E-Rate program.
"The E-Rate Program provides critical support to the poorest schools in the nation, providing them with Internet access and wiring," said Tony West, Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Division. "Working with our partners at the FCC Office of the Inspector General, the Department of Justice is committed to ensuring that this important program, which benefits our neediest children, not be misused."
The resolution announced today resulted from an ongoing federal investigation of fraud and anti-competitive conduct in the E-Rate program in Texas. The investigation is being conducted jointly by the Civil Division, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Texas and the FCC Office of the Inspector General.
Update at 2:51 p.m.: When I posted this item this morning, I asked DISD spokesman Jon Dahlander for an official response. Here it is:
DALLAS ISD SETTLES E-RATE CLAIMS WITH DEPT. OF JUSTICE AND FCC
DALLAS -- The Dallas Independent School District has concluded confidential settlement negotiations with the Department of Justice and the Federal Communications Commission relating to the federal E-Rate program. Settlement documents were signed on June 25. The claims were resolved without litigation. Since the summer of 2005, the FCC has taken no action on the district's pending requests for funding and reimbursements under the E-Rate program.
In December 2008, the board took a first step toward resolution of this matter by granting the district the authority to settle claims through a payment of $750,000. The settlement of these issues will allow the district to resume participation in the E-Rate program for both past and future funding requests.
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