PED NEWS RELEASE
The New Mexico Public Education Department on Tuesday announced new oversight of Albuquerque Public Schools’ use of federal funding for Career and Technical Education following the felony indictment of the program’s former director.
The state’s largest school district fired Sheryl Williams Stapleton, director of Career and Technical Education, on Aug. 31. The former state House majority leader has since been indicted on 26 state felony and two misdemeanor charges that accuse her of routing money meant for vocational education to businesses and charitable foundations in which she had an interest.
In a letter sent today to Superintendent Scott Elder, Public Education Secretary Designate Kurt Steinhaus listed four conditions the district must meet before receiving federal CTE funds for the 2021-2022 award year:
- APS must review and update its federal procurement procedures and strengthen controls to ensure better segregation of duties against fraud, waste and abuse.
- Upon approval by the Public Education Department, APS must implement the revised policies and procedures and train staff to follow them.
- APS must engage an independent auditor, approved by the Public Education Department, to monitor the implementation of its conflict-of-interest policy and federal procurement procedures in the CTE program.
- APS has until Oct. 1 to designate a point person to regularly communicate with the Public Education Department until such time as the conditions are removed.
“PED takes seriously the recent allegations related to APS’ controls over its procurement processes and conflicts related to APS’ CTE program,” Steinhaus said in the letter. “PED is committed to working cooperatively with APS to effectuate these corrective actions.”
In addition to the four conditions, Steinhaus gave the district until Oct. 15 to submit an accounting by funding source of all payments made to Robotics Management Learning System LLC from fiscal year 2016 through FY 2021.
APS has awarded no-bid contracts to Robotics for licensed software since at least 2013 and in that time has paid more than $5 million to the company. The indictments accuse Robotics of funneling close to $1 million to two businesses and two nonprofits with ties to Williams Stapleton.
APS first became aware of issues with the Robotics contract in 2018 when it tried to contact the company about a mislabeled purchase order. APS employees discovered Robotics did not have a website, business address or phone number, and checks to the company were being sent to an Albuquerque post office box owned by Williams Stapleton’s son, the letter noted, citing documents related to the ongoing investigation by the Attorney General’s Office.
The indictment, filed Monday in Bernalillo County District Court, includes one count of racketeering, five counts of money laundering and separate counts of soliciting or receiving kickbacks and having an unlawful interest in a public contract.
Williams Stapleton, an Albuquerque Democrat, represented House District 19 from 1994 until her resignation July 30, two days after search warrants in the case were served on her home. She has said through her attorney that she is innocent of any criminal charges and intends to clear her name.