The state awarded the $593,000 contract to develop a quality assurance system for the Department of Education Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation to The Stephen Group even though it was the highest of three bidders that got a chance for oral interviews after they were determined to be the top three candidates.
The Stephen Group was ranked third best before the oral interviews and was awarded the contract at the June 16 meeting of the Executive Council with few other details provided. That prompted the state Democratic Party to file a right-to-know request to Gov. Chris Sununu and Education Commissioner Frank Edelblut for more details on the selection process.
John Stephen, who has run twice for the 1st Congressional District, is reportedly considering another run for Congress, and is a well-know Republican and Sununu donor, founded the company.
On Wednesday, Commissioner Edelblut said the top three proposals were very close in overall scoring with UMass Medical School Commonwealth Medicine having the highest score at 83 before the oral interviews with a bid of $323,588.
The Public Consulting Group LLC came in second at 82 points and a bid of $284,283. And The Stephen Group came in third at 81 points with a bid of $593,000, the highest of the top three before the oral presentations.
Edelblut said the 11 reviewers were career Vocational Rehabilitation employees and the Deputy Commissioner, from all areas of the organization.
“The top three scored proposals were within a point of one another in the overall scoring. As a result, PCG, Stephens Group, and Commonwealth, the top three, were invited to provide oral presentations,” Edelblut said.
Edelblut did not provide individual scores on the top three in their oral presentations.
“As a result of the oral presentations, it became evident that only one vendor – the Stephen’s Group – had a thorough understanding of the scope of the work, the in-depth knowledge of how VR functions and a clear plan to meet the project objectives,” Edelblut said.
John Stephen didn’t immediately return a call on Wednesday.
Democratic Party Chairman Ray Buckley wants more details about the process.
“It appears that Governor Sununu is passing over more qualified vendors to funnel taxpayer dollars to a GOP insider and donor to his campaign,” Buckley wrote in his right-to-know request.
“Granite Staters deserve to know how and why the Stephen Group was chosen for this contract over two vendors that were ranked higher by the selection committee.”
Buckley said he is requesting any and all correspondence or other documents in the possession of the Department of Education, including both internal and external communications regarding the contract.
Buckley also asked for any and all bid materials, proposals, brochures, exhibits, presentations, advertisements, and/or other bid documents submitted by Stephen Group LLC and the other four vendors that submitted proposals for the contract: Public Consulting Group, Encorpe, Commonwealth Medicine, and Berry Dunn.