PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The R.I. Department of Education is facing backlash from critics over a $72 million contract amid allegations that it was awarded unfairly.
Providence School Board members Ty’Relle Stephens and Night Jean Muhingabo sent a letter to the R.I. Attorney General’s Office and the FBI asking they investigate the contract awarded to ABM Facilities Services this summer.
The request comes after the website GoLocalProv published accusations that ABM was favored in the bidding process and that RIDE made a “secret” $3.2 million payment to outgoing vendor Aramark.
“They [ABM] were in fact favored, but the process wasn’t a transparent process, what took place was Aramark wasn’t even allowed to do a second bidding, they were kicked out of that bidding, it wasn’t a process for everyone,” Stephens told 12 News.
RIDE said in a statement they brought the contract up for rebidding after receiving feedback from the school community on the condition of district facilities.
“All bidders were contacted for last and final bids following PPSD receiving their initial responses,” RIDE spokesperson Victor Morente said. “The District stands by their transparent process and appreciates the School Board voting and approving the contract.”
According to RIDE, the state paid $3.2 million to Aramark for invoices due plus an early termination fee.
Aramark has held the maintenance contract with Providence schools for 18 years. In June, they called the bidding process “sloppy” and “significantly flawed.”
A spokesperson for the company declined to comment to 12 News on Thursday.
When asked about the allegations into the contract they received, ABM said in a statement they have had a “seamless transition” and were “pleased” to work with Providence schools.
Providence Mayor Brett Smiley said Thursday on 12 News at 4 he was concerned after learning about the accusations.
“If in fact one bidder was allowed an extra chance to bid that was not afforded to other bidders — there were three bidders in this process — that is wholly inappropriate and potentially illegal,” Smiley said.
A spokesperson for Attorney General Peter Neronha confirmed they received the School Board letter, but he would not disclose whether they were considering opening an investigation.
A call to the Rhode Island U.S. Attorney’s Office, which conducts investigations in connection with the FBI, was not immediately returned.