Spring Grove contracts trigger state investigation

November 20, 2008|By Brent Jones | Brent Jones,brent.jones@baltsun.com

A review found hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of projects were awarded, without a competitive bid process, to four contractors to do maintenance work at Spring Grove Hospital Center, according to a special report released yesterday by the state's Department of Legislative Services.

Spring Grove is the state's oldest and largest hospital, serving more than 1,000 patients a year on a 190-acre campus in Catonsville.

The review, which spanned July 2005 to February 2008, found that projects were given to a particular contractor after Spring Grove officials had previously faxed the competing bids to the contractor.

Other contractors who faxed bids in had the top portion of their documents torn off, which often was the company's banner, the report states. The winning contractor did work totaling about $167,000.

In three other instances, contractors were awarded projects without a competitive bid process when they employed a specific individual because Spring Grove's management liked the work performed by that person, according to the report. Those projects totaled $232,000.

The report also states that unspecified personal relationships existed between certain Spring Grove employees and the contractors. All of the incidents are being investigated by the state attorney general's office.

Spring Grove is a unit of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene. Department representatives acknowledged, in a letter to the Office of Legislative Audits, that proper procurement procedure was not followed.

Health and Mental Hygiene officials said they gave the bids to the three companies employing the individual because the person was familiar with the maintenance issues at Spring Grove. Department officials said that they have since revamped their policies and have removed procurement from Spring Grove.

Renata Henry, deputy secretary for behavioral heath and disabilities, said DHM will now handle bids. Henry said the department is also retraining Spring Grove staff and has established a committee of employees outside of maintenance to assist in procurement.

"We don't think there was any malfeasance but we know the agency will continue the investigation, and we will cooperate," she said.

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