LAUSD will seek outside legal advice regarding FBI probe of iPads

L.A. schools Supt. Cortines warns that FBI probe of iPad contract could take a long time

The Los Angeles Unified School District will retain an outside law firm to provide advice on a FBI investigation of the system’s iPads-for-all program.

Supt. Ramon C. Cortines announced the move Monday in a brief memo to the Board of Education and senior staff members, saying L.A. Unified needed guidance from “outside counsel with experience in such matters.”

Cortines also emphasized that, “as before,” the district “will continue to cooperate with the federal agencies.”

Last week, federal agents took 20 boxes of documents related to the district’s $1.3-billion effort to provide computers to every student, teacher and campus administrator. The central contract to provide the devices was awarded in June 2013 by Apple, in partnership with Pearson, which provided the curriculum.

Problems with the iPad project played a role in the resignation of Supt. John Deasy, who left under pressure in October. Deasy has denied any wrongdoing. Before he left, he announced his intention to authorize a new bidding process.

Cortines, who took over from Deasy, said last week that the district would no longer use the controversial iPad contract. The district also has older, long-standing contracts with Apple and other technology firms for devices and other equipment.

In his memo Monday, Cortines noted that the probe was not likely to conclude quickly, and that district employees might have to testify.

“I am advised that such investigations typically take a very long time and that we may not hear back from the federal agencies for months,” he said. “However, when we hear back, they may request to interview individuals or subpoena them to testify before a grand jury.  They also may decide not to proceed if they determined that there were no grounds to move forward.”

He added that investigators would have to determine if there was federal jurisdiction over the issues at hand as well as whether there was sufficient evidence of wrongdoing.

The district said Monday that it had not yet decided which law firm to hire. Nor had it set aside a budget for legal costs.

Separately, the district's inspector general is leading an internal investigation of the process that led to the iPad contract. That inquiry also is expected to continue for some time.

Since the rollout began more than a year ago, the distribution of devices has slowed, with the school system also trying out other devices and curricula.

Twitter: @howardblume

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