Attorney General Leslie Rutledge issued an equivocal answer today on the questions of whether state Treasurer Dennis Milligan had authority to enter a $450,000 four-year contract last year with a Delaware company for an on-line “financial literacy” program.
The question was asked by legislative Auditor Roger Norman, since Milligan didn’t have explicit legislative authority and he seemed to have transferred money between appropriated line items to pay the tab. The summary of Rutledge’s answer:
In my opinion, the absence of a specific legislative grant of authority does not automatically compel the conclusion that the Treasurer lacked legal authority to enter the contract. The purchase of commodities and services with appropriated funds is an executive function. Of course, you are authorized to call attention to the funds at issue if it is your opinion that they have not been properly expended. I believe you are authorized to take this action if you believe it justified, notwithstanding the Treasurer’s general authority as a constitutional officer to contract for the purchase of commodities and services.
Rutledge didn’t agree that there’d been a transfer between lines of appropriation, but rather a “recategorization” of data processing money. Thus, legislative review was not required, she said, though she allowed that further factual examination could alter her outlook.
Milligan‘s contract has spurred discussion since he entered it. It’s for elmentary students. But the state’s educational framework for public schools already includes economic education for grades K-12. Education generally has not been viewed as a duty of the office. The office is primarily to hold state money and produce some earnings on it before it’s needed to pay bills.
The state already had available some free on-line financial literacy information through its college savings plan program through the same company, Ever FI, with which Milligan contracted. But his office said the additional services were more valuable.