25 Investigates: State ends $1.8M contract with Chicago-based consulting firm at center of probe

State Inspector General examining awarding and bidding process related to contract

Days after 25 Investigates revealed the Department of Early Education and Care paid nearly $2 million dollars in consulting services to an out-of-state firm, our team learned the contract is over.

[ 25 Investigates: $1.8+ million contracts Mass. gave to Illinois consultant prompts state probe ]

The contract between EEC, the agency that oversees daycares in Massachusetts, and consulting group Aim & Arrow ended last week, 25 Investigates confirmed.

The move came as a new commissioner, Amy Kershaw, took the helm of agency on March 28th. She took over from interim commissioner James Peyser, the state’s education secretary, who stepped in when then-commissioner Samantha Aigner-Treworgy departed on March 8th.

As 25 Investigates first reported Aigner-Treworgy’s departure came amid an investigation by the Office of the Inspector General into the procurement of a contract awarded to a consultant.

[ 25 Investigates: EEC Commissioner resigns, under investigation by MA Inspector General ]

A letter exclusively obtained by our team indicates the IG is examining whether strict bidding rules were followed in awarding the contract. Specifically, the IG is seeking to determine if Aigner-Treworgy had any involvement in arranging the $1.8 million Aim and Arrow contract, according to sources.

Our team searched state databases and found EEC paid out the money over roughly a two year period starting in 2019. The bulk of the money was going out when most state agencies and daycares were shut down due to the pandemic.

A review of public records of Illinois education agencies showed Aigner-Treworgy and one of the executives at Aim & Arrow, Eli Cole, were colleagues before either of them worked at EEC.

Both Aigner-Treworgy and Cole have previously told 25 Investigates the contract was awarded through a fair and public process.

We wanted to know if EEC terminated the Aim and Arrow contract due to the IG investigation. We were told the contract ended this month after completion of its deliverables around strategic planning and stakeholder engagement.

According to EEC, Aim and Arrow was added to a list of approved EEC vendors in September of 2019.

But, a set of emails obtained by 25 Investigates shows correspondence between Eli Cole of Aim and Arrow and an EEC staff member was taking place in August of 2019, a month before the consulting group was officially put on the list.

We reached out to Aim and Arrow about the conclusion of their contract with EEC, but we did not hear back.

We also contacted the Inspector General’s Office. But they have repeatedly declined to comment on the ongoing investigation which began nearly a year ago.

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