FBI investigating schools modernization project


Mayor Lovely Warren confirmed today that the FBI is conducting an investigation into activities involving the first phase of the $325 million Rochester schools modernization project. The nature of the investigation is unclear, as is the impact it may have on the second phase of the $1.2 billion project. 

"About a month ago, my corporate counsel was contacted saying there was an investigation," she said. "They were not specific about what they were looking for."

Warren said that she was not called to testify before a Grand Jury, but she was aware that other people have been.

Rochester schools Superintendent Bolgen Vargas says he's hoping that legislation for the second phase of the massive overhaul of city schools will be approved by the Legislature in the few weeks left before the end of session. Vargas said approval is needed if the project to modernize the city's aging schools is going to stay on track. 

Warren said that she recently received a copy of the draft legislation for phase two of the project, but that she doesn't know the status of the legislation. 

Earlier this year, however, Warren said she was concerned about whether compliance requirements for hiring women and minority contractors on the project were met. Twenty percent of the contracts were supposed to be awarded to minority contractors in the first phase of the project, and 6.9 percent were supposed to go to women contractors. 

Some city officials say that those objectives were not met. 

"I was concerned with the whole entire project," Warren said. "There's been a serious lack of oversight."

Oversight is supposed to be provided by a board made up of appointments by the city and the school district. 

Warren and Vargas recently agreed to make changes to the way members of the seven-person Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board are selected. According to the original legislation, the mayor and the superintendent were each able to appoint three members, and jointly select the seventh. The city will now get four appointments.