Mark Johnson at center of $6.6 million no-bid contract for IPads

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After he and other Republicans were wined and dined in California:

When N.C. Superintendent of Public Instruction Mark Johnson announced a $6.6 million purchase of iPads to support early grade literacy in August, it seemed welcome news for North Carolina school districts that have long complained of inadequate state resources.

But a Policy Watch review of state documents has found the multi-million dollar investment, which was not put out for bid with other vendors, came roughly seven months after Johnson and a trio of influential Republican budget-writers in the North Carolina General Assembly convened for an “executive briefing” with Apple reps at their Cupertino, Calif., headquarters. During the two-day meeting last October, the trillion-dollar tech giant spent more than $5,300 on transportation, lodging and meals for six state leaders, including dinner at an upscale Silicon Valley restaurant.

I'm sure the faux Libertarians over at Civitas and John Locke are feverishly trying to come up with an adequate spin over this. But years of whining about Democrats doing "favors" for their friends with (wait for it) no-bid contracts, not to mention the whole Free Market "government picking winners" in the private sector thing, has kinda boxed them into a corner. So they'll probably just ignore it completely, and/or crank out an emotional piece about a little boy who flourished in a charter school. But this issue has exposed, maybe better than anything else, Mark Johnson's inability to perform his job properly, or even legally:

Meanwhile, Johnson’s office may not have followed the correct purchasing procedures when it bypassed vetting on the iPad deal through the state’s Department of Information Technology.

A DIT review is required under North Carolina’s contract with Apple, according to Bill Holmes, director of legislative and public affairs for the N.C. Department of Information Technology, an executive branch agency that oversees tech services for state agencies. The oversight has unclear ramifications for the deal.

The state superintendent declined an interview to discuss the controversy. However, Graham Wilson, a spokesman for Johnson’s office, said the superintendent received “informal” approval from staff in the Bipartisan State Board of Elections & Ethics Enforcement.

Wilson pointed to an exception in state law that allows public servants like Johnson to treat otherwise impermissible gifts as a donation to the state if the public servant’s employing agency – in this case, the Department of Public Instruction, the agency Johnson runs – approves them to accept such gifts.

“We were comfortable with it,” said Wilson.

And that's a huge problem. You shouldn't have been comfortable with it, especially not when the time came to sign that no-bid contract. If you (and Johnson) are lacking that little voice in your head that tells you when you're treading on an ethical boundary, then you have no business running a hot dog stand, much less DPI.

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Hat-tip to Billy Ball

Please click that link and read the whole article over at Policy Watch. The writing is (of course) impressive and informative, but the amount of actual research and sources contacted revealed by that writing is mind-boggling. And you can help keep that level of journalism going by donating what you can.