City / County Digest

CITY / COUNTY DIGEST

December 21, 2006

City accepts payment in pricing dispute

St. Louis-based Express Scripts, which holds a multimillion-dollar contract to provide prescription drug benefits to Baltimore City employees, has agreed to return $240,367 after an audit found irregularities in the price the company set for certain drugs.

An initial audit of the company found that the city might have been overbilled $300,000 to $700,000 last year, though the company disagreed with those findings. The Board of Estimates accepted the payment yesterday to settle the dispute.

City Councilman Robert W. Curran, who has led the investigation into Express Scripts, said yesterday that he is pleased the company refunded a portion of the money it owed the city. But he questioned why the audit -- and the payment -- cover only one year, 2004, when the company has held the contract for nearly four years.

"Obviously, there's more money to be gotten, and I hope they would follow through" with other audits, Curran said.

New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer sued Express Scripts in 2004, saying that the company inflated the cost of prescription drugs, a claim the company has denied. Express Scripts is the exclusive provider of prescription drug benefits to Baltimore, which includes more than 64,000 active employees, retirees and their dependents -- making it one of the city's largest recurring contracts.

The city hired Aon Consulting Inc. to assist in performing the audit. Curran has argued that Aon has a conflict because, as a consultant for the city, it helped officials review applications by various companies and ultimately recommended that the city select Express Scripts.

John Fritze

Anne Arundel: Appointment

Leopold names inspections chief

An 18-year county employee with an environmental background will lead the Department of Inspections and Permits, Anne Arundel County Executive John R. Leopold announced yesterday. Betty Dixon, who has served as land-use and environment coordinator for the past decade, has worked with the departments of Public Works, Inspections and Permits, and the Planning and Zoning Office. She also worked with the Chesapeake Bay Critical Area Commission on recent updates of the county code and of the county's Critical Area program. Leopold, a Republican and former state legislator who took office this month, said Dixon will help fulfill his campaign promise of standing up to developers and other special interests. Her salary will be $120,000 annually, county officials said.

Jamie Stiehm

Annapolis

Man, 22, indicted in pornography case

A federal grand jury in Baltimore indicted William Villeda, 22, of Annapolis yesterday on charges of owning child pornography downloaded through the Internet. Villeda is accused of downloading hundreds of images since August of children engaged in sexually explicit conduct. In August and October, according to court papers, an undercover officer reported finding several files on Villeda's computer that contained pornographic images of minors, including toddlers.

Matthew Dolan

Baltimore: Traffic

New city campaign targets intersections

Baltimore transportation officials kicked off a "Don't Block the Box" campaign yesterday aimed at keeping city intersections clear of vehicles and helping to improve the flow of traffic during rush hours. Violations can result in a $90 fine and one point on a driving record, and officials say they will be stepping up enforcement.

Carroll County: Sykesville-Freedom

Fire Department testing smoke alarms

The Sykesville-Freedom District Fire Department is canvassing neighborhoods in Sykesville and Eldersburg this week to check homes for proper smoke alarm use. The home visits are to increase awareness on using smoke alarms, especially during the holidays, and to gather statistical data that the department will use in an application for a fire-prevention grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Homes that do not have properly working smoke alarms are being provided with free smoke alarms and batteries by firefighters. Information: 410-236-0040.

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