Questions surface about company owned by Union County superintendent

Union County Superintendent facing accusations of conflict of interest
Tony Burrus, Chief Technology Officer for Union County Public Schools (Source: Union County Public Schools)
Tony Burrus, Chief Technology Officer for Union County Public Schools (Source: Union County Public Schools)
Mike Webb, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Technology and Operations (Source: Union County Public Schools)
Mike Webb, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Technology and Operations (Source: Union County Public Schools)

MONROE, NC (WBTV) - Some Union County residents are raising questions about a company owned and managed by Dr. Mary Ellis, superintendent of Union County Public Schools, and two other top administrators.
 
According to documents filed with the North Carolina Secretary of State's Office, Ellis is the president of Educatrx Inc.

Tony Burrus, Chief Technology Officer for Union County Public Schools, is listed as the company's vice president. Mike Webb, Assistant Superintendent for Instructional Technology and Operations is listed as secretary.

A fourth man, Jason Mooneyham, is the company's treasurer. Mooneyham is the Executive Director for Public Sector Sales for computer manufacturer Lenovo.

Educatrx Inc. was originally incorporated in Delaware in April 2014. Ellis filed an application for certificate of authority with the North Carolina Secretary of State in late October 2015.

It is unclear what the company does but questions about the company have surfaced since details of the business' management became public.

The questions—posted by concerned Union County residents on social media—center around the appearance of a conflict of interest involving contracts between Union County Public Schools and Lenovo.

Lenovo is the standardized hardware vendor for the school system. On Your Side Investigates found at least two transactions between Lenovo and UCPS approved by the Board of Education in the time since Ellis, Burrus, Webb and Mooneyham formed their company.
 
The first transaction came on March 10, 2015 when the board voted to approve the purchase of 10,000 new Chromebooks from Lenovo as part of a technology refresh for elementary-aged students.

According to meeting minutes and board documents, the purchase was approved via consent agenda—a list of items on which board members do not discuss before they vote.

Records posted on the UCPS website show the purchase was first discussed and approved by the Strategic Planning and Technology Committee on February 19, 2015. Ellis, the superintendent, is listed as a member of that committee.

Minutes of the February 19 meeting show Webb made the presentation to committee members and recommended the Chromebook purchase from Lenovo.

The minutes also show a motion to approve and recommend the purchase to the Board of Education passed unanimously but the minutes omit the name of the person who made the motion.

The second transaction between UCPS and Lenovo was approved by board members in September 2015. Meeting minutes show the board approved two resolutions authorizing an exchange of property with Lenovo. Again, like with the March purpose, the approval came as part of the consent agenda.

It is unclear what property was being exchanged but one resolution values the property at $110,000. Attachments referenced in the resolutions were not posted as part of the board documents.

A schools spokeswoman issued the following statement in response to questions from On Your Side Investigates:

The Board of Education gave Superintendent Dr. Mary Ellis permission to write, consult, teach and patent her intellectual property in March 2014. The situation in question is a confidential personnel matter and is being addressed accordingly.

On Your Side Investigates also contacted Lenovo, Ellis and Webb for comment but those requests have not been answered.

It is not clear if any laws would prohibit the outside business relationship between top district administrators and a top sales executive for Lenovo.

Stay with WBTV News and WBTV.Com for more as this story develops.

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