Drug treatment vendor appeals decision

Right Turn, which lost contract with Balto. Co., claims bidding was unfair

April 30, 2004|By Stephanie Hanes | Stephanie Hanes,SUN STAFF

Right Turn of Maryland, the company that recently lost its contract to treat Baltimore County's nonviolent drug offenders, is fighting to maintain a role in the county's justice system.

Claiming the county's bidding process was unfair, Right Turn officials have appealed the decision to replace Right Turn with the Pennsylvania-based Gaudenzia Inc., according to a letter Right Turn sent the county budget office this week.

"They arbitrarily and capriciously modified the [request for bids] in the final stages, significantly altering the nature of the proposal," Right Turn attorney J. Phillip Keller wrote.

The county said it never changed the nature of the proposal and that the bidding process was fair.

For 10 years, Right Turn has treated nearly 100 addicts a day in its 28-day inpatient program at the Rosewood Center campus in Owings Mills and hundreds of others in once-a-week aftercare. Now, it is trying to rally lawyers, former patients and County Council members - who must approve the contract - to its cause.

County Councilman T. Bryan McIntire, a north county Republican, has asked the county auditor to gather information about the bidding process and about Guadenzia.

"I want to know what the bid specifications were, and I want to find out more about the company [that officials] are asking the council to approve," he said.

The county's budget office is standing by its decision to give the contract to Guadenzia, a nonprofit company that also runs drug-treatment programs in Northwest Baltimore.

"We chose the most qualified vendor, which is what we have to do," said county spokeswoman Renee Samuels.

County lawyers and judges have long relied on Right Turn as an alternative to jail for some drug offenders. But with Right Turn's decade-old contract expiring in June, county officials started this year to ask for new proposals to run the treatment center.

Right Turn, Gaudenzia and one other vendor submitted bids to take over operations at Rosewood. The county, along with a group of seven people familiar with drug treatment and criminal justice, decided that Gaudenzia's proposal was the best fit for the $750,000 grant-funded contract.

Unlike some contracts, where vendors try to offer the lowest price, in this bid the vendors gave proposals for how they would use the $750,000.

"Seven independent people reviewed the applications, conducted oral interviews and came to the decision about who was the most qualified vendor," Samuels said.

But in their letter, Right Turn officials said the county was misleading when it asked for proposals of how to run the drug treatment facility.

Keller also wrote that the county "failed to appreciate the actual success rate of Right Turn of Maryland."

While county officials acknowledged that Right Turn has done well treating drug offenders, they said that Gaudenzia's treatment model would be better for the county.

Right Turn's letter this week is its first step in appealing the budget office's decision.

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