Schools' IT chief's bribery conviction upheld

Summary:The US Court of Appeals upheld a three-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania school district IT manager for receiving some $2 million in kickbacks related to the federal E-Rate program.

The US Court of Appeals upheld a three-year prison sentence for a Pennsylvania school district IT manager for receiving some $2 million in kickbacks related to the federal E-Rate program, News.com reports.

In spring 2002, John Henry Weaver was serving as director of information technology of the Harrisburg School District in Pennsylvania, which had just awarded a company called EMO Communications a contract to supply approximately 800 laptop computers. The project would receive the bulk of its funding from the Federal Communications Commission's multimillion-dollar E-rate subsidy program, which has faced its own allegations of mismanagement over the years.

When EMO's Ronald Morrett first submitted his bid, the computers in question cost $7,600 each. In the two years that it took the government to sign off on the deal, that price had plummeted to between $1,600 and $1,700 per unit. But EMO never changed the bid, and the government approved the higher-priced contract.

With the deal finalized, Morrett and Weaver made an agreement: Morrett would pay kickbacks to the school official. In April 2002, Weaver accepted a lump sum of $1.4 million, justified by a phony invoice. He went on to accept a check for $500,000 and then 13 additional payments ranging from $5,000 to $600,000--for a total of about $1.9 million--up until May 2003.

During that time, E-rate representatives called Weaver on several occasions to verify that Morrett was following through on his contract. Weaver always confirmed, truthfully, that he had received the specified computers. Those responses led a trial court in Pennsylvania to determine--and correctly so, the 3rd Circuit affirmed--that Weaver's approval played an important role in ensuring Morrett's firm continued receiving "progress payments" from E-rate.

 

Topics: Government, Laptops

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