SCHOOL OF SCANDAL

A WHISTLE-BLOWER SAYS HE WAS FIRED FOR REPORTING PURCHASING IRREGULARITIES

From the beginning, Rich Brydle says, he heard rumors about improper purchasing procedures at the Maricopa Community College District.

Brydle, a former employee in the district's purchasing department, says memos had been written and reprimands issued to Gary Mandarino, another purchasing employee who was in charge of buying computer software and accessories. Those memorandums, Brydle says, instructed Mandarino to more closely follow state purchasing rules. But the reprimands never seemed to reach the buyer's personnel file.

"They told me that he had been a problem, but nothing ever came of it," Brydle says.

Last February, Brydle says, Mike McIntier, manager of purchasing and auxiliary services, asked him to perform a review of Mandarino's purchasing activities.

The review showed that one vendor--Computerworld--seemed to enjoy an advantage over competitors. Computerworld was able to underbid other vendors by very little, often less than 1 percent.

Significantly, Computerworld was receiving the bulk of MCC's district business when Mandarino was handling the purchases alone. There was an enormous drop in the business going to Computerworld when he had assistants working with him.

But Brydle was not rewarded for reporting his discoveries up the college's chain of command. Instead, he says, he was fired after he dared to recommend Mandarino's termination.

Now he has filed suit against the the community college under the state's whistle-blower law.

Brydle worked for MCC as a purchasing supervisor for almost two years, beginning in August 1992. He was terminated last June, four months after he had completed his review of Mandarino's activities.

Brydle says he presented his report to McIntier, who gave it to Rufus Glasper, assistant vice chancellor of financial operations at the district. Brydle and McIntier also made a recommendation--that Mandarino be fired.

Instead of being fired, however, Mandarino was simply transferred to Scottsdale Community College--to work in the purchasing department.

"He didn't miss a day of work or a day of pay," Brydle says.
Glasper apparently took Brydle's allegations seriously. He requested that the college's Internal Audit Department perform its own review of Mandarino's work.

A copy of that review obtained by New Times shows that MCC district auditors came to the same conclusions as Brydle--that Mandarino failed to gather the required number of bids for purchases between $500 and $5,000, and also failed to provide adequate documentation of the bids he did receive. It also showed that most of his business went to Computerworld when he worked alone. The amount of business MCC did with the computer store went down when Mandarino was working alongside others.

In addition, Mandarino sometimes wrote purchase orders for prices that were higher than the quotes he indicated he had received--in effect, paying Computerworld more than it had bid. He also had apparently allowed Computerworld to submit second bids if other vendors offered lower prices. No other vendors were allowed to revise their bids downward.

Besides the bidding discrepancies, other ethical questions were raised concerning Mandarino's performance.

His son worked part-time for Computerworld during 1993. Mandarino acknowledged that he knew the computer store needed extra workers, and helped arrange his son's employment there.

Mandarino worked at Scottsdale Community College for three months after his transfer, then was moved to MCC's ITS division, which handles computer equipment purchasing.

Neither Mandarino nor Glasper returned calls from New Times last week. A spokesman for the college said it would not comment on pending litigation.

Brydle himself was fired, without being given a reason, on June 13.
Brydle says he thinks he lost his job because the district wanted to avoid any negative publicity that might have affected last November's election on its bond issue. That $385 million bond package was approved by voters.

WHAT'S NEW, PUSSYCAT? VETERAN SKIN-FLICK... v1-19-95

 
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