EXCLUSIVE: Former DOE official sues department
HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - As the Department of Education's chief procurement officer, Andrell Aoki managed over $100 million in contract awards each year.
But in March, the Mililani resident said the DOE fired her because she questioned the legality of several multi-million dollar contracts relating to the DOE's "Race to the Top" program.
"There was just tremendous pressure to get these race projects completed, pushed out so that we can start expending other race funds," she said.
"I do believe we wasted a lot of federal dollars."
In a lawsuit filed in state Circuit Court, Aoki alleges that her supervisor, DOE Chief Financial Officer Amy Kunz, took steps to fire her after Aoki opposed a nonbid contract issued to a New Jersey firm.
That firm, the Danielson Group, provided training for teacher evaluations but Aoki said other companies were qualified to bid on the work.
Aoki's suit, filed by local attorney Roman Amaguin, also alleges that the DOE illegally awarded a multi-million dollar contract to manufacturer Lenovo for laptop computers. Aoki said the computer deal was illegal because they were purchased through the governor's office and not the DOE.
These computers were part of Gov. Neil Abercrombie's plan to provide laptops for every student in Hawaii.
According to Aoki, a bid challenge by Dell Computers and an investigation by the state Procurement Office later forced the DOE to cancel the contract and re-bid it.
The laptop program is now way behind schedule, said Aoki. Just eight schools, including Kalani High School, have received computers so far. The DOE has spent about $8.2 million on those computers last year.
DOE officials declined comment. Amaguin, Aoki's attorney, said he plans to issue subpoena shortly.