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New bidding ordered for sports equipment contract

The Buffalo School Board was ordered Thursday to rebid the lucrative team sports equipment contract it awarded six months ago.

State Supreme Court Justice John A. Michalek ruled bidding procedures used in awarding the contract to Ad Pro Team Sports of Buffalo were "impermissibly vague" and violated bidding rules outlined by the state comptroller's office and state education officials.

The suit was launched by one of the losing bidders, Jim Ludtka Sporting Goods of Cheektowaga. Ludtka attorney Andrew P. Fleming said company owner Debbie Lancelotti does not believe Ad Pro, the Buffalo franchise for the Nike conglomerate, did anything wrong in winning the bid. But she faults the school district for demanding upfront payments through "an illegal bidding scheme."

Fleming estimated the still-secret five-year contract for apparel, game uniforms and team footwear for 19 school sports is "worth millions." He said that, unless the school district appeals, the bidding can be redone "within the next 30 days."

Kelly Gale Eisenried, the school district attorney in the case, declined to comment on whether the district will appeal. An appeal would automatically stay the court order and keep the Ad Pro bid alive.

Fleming said Ad Pro was awarded the contract by the School Board last July based on the bid it submitted in February, which included a check for $50,000.

Ludtka Sporting Goods challenged the award as part of an illegal "pay to play" scheme because the pricing terms of the deal weren't finalized until after Ad Pro was awarded the contract, Fleming said.

"In true competitive bidding, one doesn't get the bid and then negotiate the price," Fleming said.

In court papers, Eisenried argued that the district "selected the lowest responsible bidder . . . based solely on the prices provided in the bids."

Fleming noted Ad Pro also reportedly has donated $105,000 to the foundation launched by Superintendent James A. Williams last year to create a roughly $10 million endowment to pump private money into the district's academic, arts and athletic programs.


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