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Georgia Board Sued On Test Contract

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A Decatur, Ga., testing firm has filed a $7-million lawsuit against the Georgia Board of Education, two board members, and the state's attorney general, claiming that the board backed out of its contract with the company to develop statewide writing tests.

The suit contends that the board violated the pact when it reversed itself and voted in July to award a $585,000 contract to the University of Georgia. The circumstances surrounding the vote, the suit charges, also violated the state's open-meeting law.

A month earlier, the suit contends, the board had voted to direct the state's commissioner of education to continue the contract with the firm, R&R Evaluations Inc., which had operated the testing program for the past three years.

The board reversed itself, the suit alleges, after learning that the company had been charged with paying $56,000 in kickbacks to a New Jersey vocational-education official.

Law-enforcement authorities in that state are investigating charges that the New Jersey official, Gordon Ascher, directed more than $800,000 in federal funds to selected companies in return for kickbacks. Mr. Ascher, who was fired in January as assistant commissioner for vocational education, later died in an apparent suicide. (See Education Week, Jan. 20, 1988.)

R. Robert Rentz, R&R's president, said last week that the firm was "coerced" into paying kickbacks to Mr. Ascher, and thus is innocent of the New Jersey charges. He added that the firm has also filed suit against the New Jersey department of education and the attorney general, charging that their "behavior has virtually put us out of business.''

A lawyer for the state, who declined to be quoted by name, denied that the board violated the contract with R&R, since the state department of education's contract with the the firm had expired on June 30. The July action was a vote against renewing the contract, the lawyer said.--rr

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