COMPTON — State officials are investigating whether the Compton Unified School District violated the law earlier this year when trustees awarded a $697,000 contract to a Washington, D.C., food-service consultant.
Albert Tweldridge, administrator of the state Education Department's nutrition division, said last week that his office is also reviewing $294,000 in food purchases made from the NuWay Market of Compton.
Tweldridge said state officials are concerned mostly because "Nobody in our office had seen a food consultancy contract of that magnitude." Under the contract, he said, the district also would pay the consultants for services that seemingly "could be done by the state" at less cost.
"We don't have all of the facts and we are looking into all aspects of the case including the competitive bidding," he said. "We hope to have a report by December."
Big Savings Expected
Supt. Ted D. Kimbrough said district officials have done nothing improper in hiring the consultants, whom he expects to eventually "save the district $750,000 to $1 million a year" by restructuring and improving food-service operations. The NuWay Market purchases, he said, were all made after competitive bids were taken by telephone.
Kimbrough said the state inquiry was sought by Trustee John Steward, a frequent critic of the superintendent. The issue is now being raised by several challengers in the upcoming trustee election on Tuesday.
"You won't hear anything (about NuWay Market from Steward) after Nov. 3," Kimbrough said.
Steward is not up for reelection. But with three of the seven trustee seats at stake, Kimbrough's job may hang on the outcome. At present, four trustees support the superintendent, while three--including Steward--want him fired.
Kimbrough supporter Lynn Dymally is not seeking another term, however. And a field of 15 candidates is trying to unseat one or both of the other incumbents, Kimbrough supporter Mary B. Henry, and Bernice Woods, a Kimbrough critic.
Among the challengers is NuWay co-owner Cloria L. Patillo, a Kimbrough supporter. Kimbrough said Steward is trying to damage Patillo's campaign.
Timing Was a Coincidence
Steward countered that he has had no role in anyone's campaign except for having endorsed Woods. He said the timing of the investigation is a coincidence.
"I complained about NuWay Market in February," Steward said. "And I wasn't the one who put the food consultant on the September (school board) agenda."
Steward said he does not believe the NuWay Market purchases, made between July, 1986, and last February, were based on competitive bidding. Kimbrough said they were.
And when the board agreed in September to award an 18-month contract to food consultant National Business Services Enterprises, Steward was the lone opponent. Woods abstained.
The consultant's hiring was prompted when both state and private studies indicated that a major overhaul was needed in the food services program. National Business Services was chosen by competitive bid over two other companies, district officials said.