(Missouri Independent) – The company providing healthcare to state prisoners has failed to prove a competitor misled state buyers to win the $ 1.4 billion contract, Cole County Circuit Judge Daniel Green ruled Thursday.
Corizon Health, which has been the state’s provider for prisoners’ medical needs since 1992, accused the state’s purchasing division of giving the contract to Centurion Health despite problems with his offer that should have disqualified him.
Green disagreed and delivered his ruling after Corizon had completed his case and without a formal presentation from Assistant Attorney General Craig Jacobs, who represented the state, or attorney Chuck Hatfield, who represented Centurion. Green has asked lawyers to file a statement of facts that he can use to draft a formal opinion, which he says will come next week.
At the time an appeal can be heard, Centurion will provide health care to the Department of Corrections.
Centurion’s proposal was chosen as the best of five bids submitted for the contract, which could last up to seven years. Corizon protested against the price in mid-June, approximately two weeks before the start of the contract.
The start of the contract was delayed while the case was pending and is now scheduled to begin on November 15.
In the protest and trial, Corizon questioned whether Centurion could provide the experienced managers he promised after firing a key member of his corporate team and whether failure to notify the state of the layoff was a fault that should void the prize.
“They have not established the false statements they claim were made,” Jacobs told Green as he called for the verdict.
Under the Missouri contract, Centurion will receive $ 1.4 billion to care for the state’s approximately 23,000 inmates if the contract runs for the full seven years. Corizon’s challenge arose from documents uncovered in Tennessee, where Centurion also beat Corizon for a contract for behavioral health services in that state’s prisons.
Corizon sued Centurion in federal court in Tennessee and found emails from Wesley Landers, CFO of the Tennessee Department of Corrections, to Jeff Wells, vice president of Centurion, providing internal documents about the contract.
Landers was hired by Centurion, but after the discovery of communication, the company fired both Landers and Wells.
Tennessee announced in May that it search for new offers for the contract.
Scott King, general counsel for Corizon, said the company will wait until it sees Green’s written judgment before deciding to appeal.
“We felt we had a really good record in place,” King said. “We felt that we exhibited great corruption in the process in Tennessee, which led to bogus and misleading submissions. Sadly, it looks like you can do it in the state of Missouri and it really doesn’t matter. It is of great concern to us.
In testimony Thursday afternoon, Karen Boeger, director of the purchasing division, said everything Centurion submitted in its proposal was true when it was received. If there are any changes in the company’s team, she said, there is a process for replacing key personnel.
“People get fired,” Boeger said. “People are leaving. People are dying.
Failure to replace key personnel could constitute a breach of contract, she said, but there are often changes in the way the affairs of government are run at its suppliers.
“The problem is if there is no replacement,” she said. “They would be in violation of what they promised me.”
Many of Corizon’s arguments focused on the final document presented to the state, known as the best and final offer. The decision to fire Wells and the issues that led Tennessee to renew that state’s contract should have been disclosed, the company said.
Boeger, in his testimony, said that the best and latest offering document is intended to answer specific questions from buying agents. This is not a way to resubmit the entire proposal, she said.
The key to the case, Hatfield said, is that the state’s procurement rules allow for staff substitution.
“In this case, Centurion made a proposal to use a person, absolutely meant to do it, that was absolutely true,” Hatfield said. “Later, he is no longer with the company. This is not an unusual situation. Frankly, this is a bit of a usual situation.
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