Preliminary investigation of Cobb County Schools spending underway in District Attorney's office

Cobb County District Attorney, Flynn Broady, has opened a preliminary investigation into the multimillion-dollar COVID-19 fighting expenditures by the Cobb County School Board.

The investigation follows weeks of frustrated responses from parents and some board members.

Cobb County Schools recently agreed to spend $12 million on devices that claim to fight COVID-19. This $14,000 machine cleans your hands.

These Ultra Violet C lights are supposed to sanitize schools during the night. But many Cobb Parents, like Stacy Efrat, aren't buying what these companies are selling.

"It doesn't feel good that my tax dollars are being wasted," said Efrat.

It started last October. Cobb decided to demo the Iggy at Bryant Elementary. The UVc lights were installed in three elementary schools. It cost the county $272,000.

School Superintendent Chris Ragsdale raved about both products.

"I think it's important that we not only have solutions that not only approach the solution we're asking for today with COVID but it’s going to move us into the future," said Ragsdale.

The future came fast. One month later, right before the Thanksgiving holidays, Cobb requested proposals for a hand sanitizing machine and UVc lights.  Because of the holiday, companies only had 9 working days to respond. The two companies handpicked to demonstrate their products were the winning bidders.

"It definitely looks like the fix was in," said Efrat.

Iggy was the winner of the hand sanitizing RFP. The bid asked for a combination aqueous ozone hand sanitizing device. 

"Iggy uses a breakthrough technology," said Iggy founder Dr. Thomas Foust. 

 Aqueous ozone is a mixture of water and ozone. It has been used to sanitize drinking water, fruits, and vegetables for years.

30e Scientific founder, Dr. Thomas Foust told Cobb officials Iggy uses the same aqueous ozone that has proven to kill bacteria, viruses, and even coronavirus.

"Ozone has been shown over many years, 150 years, to be able to breakdown and destroy pathogens, and viruses and bacteria .. uhh… we… uhh, uhh including the coronavirus," said Dr. Foust.

Reporter: "You don't think Iggy would kill the COVID virus?"

Wilcox: "Absolutely not."

Heidi Wilcox is a national expert and consultant on green cleaning solutions including aqueous ozone. She raves about its use as a cleaner but says in her laboratory and real-world experience it's no match for the virus that causes COVID. 

So, what did Cobb County get with Iggy?

"It's probably no more than just washing your hands in a sink with soap and water. It is an expensive sink on the wall," said Wilcox.

30e Scientific disagrees, writing numerous studies show people don't properly wash their hands, while Iggy cleans hands in "seven seconds" with no technique required. And they say lab tests show Iggy effectively killed "bacteria and viruses "including coronavirus.."

Cobb County told bidders in the beginning exactly what they wanted: "This is not a hand washing station, but a hand sanitizer solution."

Yet, 30e Scientific’s own proposal calls Iggy a "hand rinser." It never says it is a hand sanitizer. 

"A hand rinser or a hand cleaner does not have to go through federal regulations and oversight. So they're answering a request for proposal as a hand sanitizer and they didn't answer the question," said Wilcox.

30e Scientific wrote it was selected because of the "strength of our proposal" and product. 

The county will spend millions to put 8 of these hand rinsing devices in every elementary school.

That's $14,361 per machine.  A simple hand sanitizer used at FOX 5 cost around $190 bucks per machine plus the gel. 

"We have a limited budget for schools, so why aren't we spending money on things that are actually proven to work," said Wilcox.

In fact, Cobb School superintendent Chris Ragsdale admitted earlier that the county already has plenty of hand sanitizer on hand.

"We've got 14,000 gallons of hand sanitizer," said Ragsdale.

JaHa Howard, Cobb County school board member, has been a vocal critic of these purchases.  He says, as a board member and also a Dentist, he wanted to see the scientific testing that would prove Iggy could kill COVID 19.

Reporter: "Did they provide you with any science any studies done on this machine?)"

Howard: "Just a brochure."

Reporter: "A brochure?"

Howard: "A brochure?"

Reporter: "No analytics, no science, no laboratory experiments?"

Howard: "No. "

30e Scientific wrote Iggy has been tested by an independent laboratory. Bu,t they won't let the FOX 5 I-Team see the tests calling them "proprietary."  They plan to publish them in "professional journals."

Heidi Wilcox doesn't understand why the county or parents can't see the research and she can't get over the multimillion-dollar price tag.

"That machine is pretty, it's cute, it's cool and people might love it right. Personally, if I was consulting with the school district it would never be anything we would buy. To me it is a waste of money," said Wilcox.

A Cobb County School spokesperson wrote FOX 5 to say "Transparency, accountability, and the law are at the heart of our procurement process. Despite libelous rumors spread on social media, the Superintendent and Board have no impact on the procurement process."

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