SANTA ROSA — Luna Community College will receive hundreds of thousands of federal dollars for its distance education programs.
However, the school admitted to a violation in procurement in connection with hiring a consulting firm to help get the sizable federal grant.
Sigfredo Maestas, Luna’s interim president, told the Board of Trustees at a meeting in Santa Rosa this week that the college had bypassed its procurement pro-cess in contracting with the firm, Arkansas-based Munsell and Associates.
Under Luna’s contract with Munsell, around 6 percent of the first year’s grant — $574,000 — was to go to the firm for compensation, Maestas said. That turned out to be $32,000.
The state procurement code requires the college to issue a request for proposals to be published for contracts more than $30,000, he said. And the college didn’t do that in the case of the Munsell contract, he said.
“When you apply for the grant, you don’t know how much you’ll receive,” Maestas said.
He said he wanted to make a “self-disclosure” about the procurement violation, so Donna Flores-Medina, the school’s vice president for finance, wouldn’t be blamed for it. The application process happened before Maestas took the interim job.
“The proper procedures are in order, but they were bypassed,” Flores-Medina said.
Maestas said that because the service has already been provided, the college had no choice but to compensate Munsell. The trustees voted to make the payment.
A couple of months ago, Maestas told the trustees that the school needed to hire a purchasing agent who would work directly for Flores-Medina. Luna’s purchasing responsibilities have been spread out over a number of departments, but Maestas said such functions needed to be centralized to avoid procedural problems.
Maestas didn’t name the employee who handled the distance-learning grant project, but he said the contract should have gone to Flores-Medina first.
“You’re going to have a purchasing agent. There is no way this should happen again,” he said.
The federal Title V grant is expected to bring Luna nearly $600,000 a year for the next five years.
Luna got the money to improve distance learning and Internet education for students living in the college’s outlying areas. In the next five years, the college expects to offer a general studies associate’s degree and high-demand nursing courses to the area’s rural, low-income areas.
To enhance access to the school, Luna plans to develop an online learning lab as well as four small computer labs in outreach centers in communities surrounding Las Vegas, officials said.