Juvenile agency rebuked for 'administrative sloppiness'

DeVore sought retroactive approval for $171 million in no-bid contracts

November 17, 2010|By Julie Bykowicz, The Baltimore Sun

Comptroller Peter Franchot criticized the state Department of Juvenile Services for what he called the "administrative sloppiness" that led to a request Wednesday for the approval of $171 million in no-bid contracts for work that has already been performed.

Juvenile Services Secretary Donald W. DeVore said he has made personnel changes and warned agency officials of "dire consequences" if they continue to circumvent state procurement procedures. He also said he is implementing better contract-tracking tools, included a color-coded "dashboard."

"I'm fed up with it," Franchot said, adding that DeVore has "no credible explanation for why it happened." The multiyear contracts date to July 2008, though some were entered as recently as August. They were uncovered by state auditors this year.

The exchange at the Board of Public Works meeting Wednesday followed an audit released last month that described procurement problems and other bureaucratic disorganization in Juvenile Services. The agency oversees juveniles charged with and found responsible for crimes and has an annual budget of about $275 million.

Franchot and fellow board member Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp have regularly said they detest retroactive approval requests of the sort DeVore was seeking.

Nonetheless, the board voted 2-1 to approve the $171 million. Kopp and Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown, sitting in for Gov. Martin O'Malley, voted in favor of the contracts; Franchot voted against.

The 61 contracts at issue are for licensed contractors to provide "residential and nonresidential services" for juveniles in the court system. The services include group homes, foster care and home-based therapy.

Franchot urged DeVore to rebid the contracts in a competitive manner.

DeVore, a former federal monitor of juvenile programs, has served as DJS secretary for almost four years. Asked after the meeting whether he planned to remain as secretary through O'Malley's second term, DeVore said he was having "private conversations" with the governor about that.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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