Tag Archives: Jake Spivey

VMI Loses DEI Court Case: a Win-Win Situation

by Jake Spivey

In Virginia’s ever-shifting landscape of diversity, equity, or opportunity, and inclusion, a powerful decision has been made. Following the sensational, yet unproven, allegations of exceptionally bad behavior and poor leadership at Virginia Military Institute in late autumn 2019, the administration and Board of Visitors attempted to quickly effect conclusive actions that would correct their unproven ills. A prime effort by the administration would be delivery of DEI training to staff, faculty, and the Corps of cadets. Unfortunately, in its haste to instigate the training, VMI circumvented the state’s procurement laws. By sidestepping the proper legal path for solicitations and contracts, VMI became vulnerable to protest by competing but unsuccessful contractors.

After a series of hearings before Judge Christopher B. Russell, the judge rendered a verdict finding VMI in “Violation of Virginia Public Procurement Act and/or the Rules Governing Procurement of Goods, Services, Insurance and Construction by a Public Institution of Higher Education of the Commonwealth of Virginia.” The judge’s decision represents a loss for VMI and its legal counsel,  an alumnus. VMI’s attorneys tried but repeatedly failed to have the case dismissed on technicalities rather than argue the merits of VMI’s actions when pursuing the DEI training contract. Continue reading

VMI Disguises DEI Contract

By Jake Spivey

In late fall 2021, Virginia Military Institute’s Board of Visitors and its newly installed superintendent were still reeling from the state investigator’s specious report condemning the Institute’s cultural climate. Resolving to quiet a mostly nameless and unidentifiable assortment of individuals criticizing VMI, the Board submitted through the state’s contracting website a request for proposals (RFP), for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) consultation and training services. The solicitation sought companies that could help VMI “intentionally strengthen its commitment and work around DEI to aid the Institute in achieving Inclusive Excellence Plan goals and objectives.” The to-be-hired firm would provide VMI’s leadership a way to “institute DEI activities” for VMI’s leadership, faculty, full-time staff, and the 1,600 member Corps of Cadets. The RFP outlined requirements and described services that, no doubt in the minds of VMI’s leadership, would correct deficiencies neither the Commonwealth nor the investigative team had factually identified or documented in the June 1, 2021 report.

Unfortunately, in its zeal to implement a contract for DEI consultation and training, VMI attempted to circumvent the Commonwealth’s procurement laws. A competing contractor, the Center for Applied Innovation, LLC (CAI), recognized a variety of inconsistencies regarding access to records as part of the proposal process. As alleged in court documents, VMI improperly awarded a “Notice of Intent” to award a contract to NewPoint Strategies, LLC (NewPoint). On March 18, 2022, CAI filed a formal protest in Rockbridge County Circuit Court alleging VMI had violated the state’s Virginia Public Procurement Act (VPPA). VMI denied it acted improperly, delivering a denial letter to the Court on March 28, 2022. It asked the Court to dismiss CAI’s lawsuit, claiming VMI was exempt from the state’s procurement laws. On July 14, 2022, Judge Christopher Russell listened to oral arguments from CAI’s attorneys and lawyers from the Office of the Attorney General, Christopher Bernhardt and Patrick O’Leary, who represented VMI. On August 3, 2022, in a surprise ruling, Judge Russell agreed with CAI and declined to dismiss the lawsuit. VMI appealed this decision, requesting the Court reconsider its original ruling. The Court did so, reversing its opinion. This action emboldened VMI to surreptitiously continue pursuit of a DEI-services contract with NewPoint.
Continue reading