Judge to rule on jail contract action At issue is county's denial of bid by Delaware firm

August 01, 1996|By Dennis O'Brien | Dennis O'Brien,SUN STAFF

An Anne Arundel Circuit judge is slated to decide in the next few weeks whether county officials broke the law when they denied a Delaware firm a $1.4 million contract to provide medical services at the county detention center.

A lawyer for Prison Health Services (PHS) of New Castle, Del., told Judge Pamela L. North yesterday that the county illegally rescinded its contract with the company on May 17 because a competitor started complaining to county officials.

"It's curious to me that the way this came about was the competitor started raising issues. Nobody in the county originally had any problems with the contract as submitted," said Joseph P. Chazen, the lawyer.

Chazen said the county notified PHS in an April 25 letter that it had been awarded a one-year contract to provide medical services for the 700 inmates at the jail.

The contract, which included an option to extend the pact for two additional years, was put out for bid by the county in advertisements placed Feb. 22.

But the county rescinded the pact after Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis complained PHS had won the contract by including a requirement that the county pay for services 30 days in advance, Chazen said.

Chazen asked Judge Pamela L. North yesterday for a court order requiring the county to award the pact to PHS.

Stephen M. LeGendre, deputy county attorney, said that the county never awarded the contract to PHS and that the April 25 letter was only a preliminary step in the contract-awarding process.

He said contracts are not awarded until the county law office reviews them and the county executive signs them. Neither step occurred in this case, he said.

He said PHS initially appeared to be the lowest bidder by about $90,000, but it was only after the April 25 letter went out that county officials noticed PHS' proposed contract required the unusual 30-day advance payment.

The advance payment requirement made PHS' bid nonresponsive, forcing the county to re-bid for the service, LeGendre said.

The county's contract for jail medical services with Correctional Medical Services was to expire Tuesday. It has been extended until the court resolves the dispute.

Pub Date: 8/01/96

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