Monday, June 22, 2009

Explosive new charge in prison vendor lawsuit

First came allegations of illegal negotiations between Florida's prison system and a mental health care vendor. Then came a bid protest and a lawsuit charging violations of purchasing and public records laws. Now, this: the same vendor that brought the lawsuit, MHM Correctional Services, is raising the possibility that a top corrections official maneuvered to get a friend hired at the vendor being hired to replace MHM.

MHM attorney Chris Kise filed a response document in Leon County Circuit Court Monday that says the prison system's assistant secretary for health care services, Dr. Sandeep Rahangdale, "may well have had a personal interest in contracting with CMS." Correctional Medical Services of St. Louis is the new vendor hired to take MHM's place in providing mental health care for about 18,000 inmates in South Florida's prisons.

Kise attached e-mail traffic between Rahangdale and Frank Fletcher, CMS's senior director of business development, in which the prison official writes: "Frank: Send requirements, pay range, etc. to (Rahangdale's private email address). I think I have a perfect fit for you and the state." Fletcher answers: "Thanks for the e-mail contact, I will be back in touch regarding a psychiatric director." (A previous post incorrectly said MHM got the emails from a public records request; the materials were obtained through discovery).

During that e-mail exchange, testimony in court showed, the Department of Corrections was finalizing a 120-day purchase order to begin utilizing CMS on July 1. Kise's lawsuit is asking a judge to block that purchase order award until MHM's bid protest is decided. The state had no immediate response to Kise's court filing, saying the agency had not yet seen the paperwork.

In a statement, CMS spokesman Ken Fields called the allegation "nothing more than a desperate PR stunt that is completely baseless." He said MHM has had the emails "for weeks" but never raised "This false allegation in any hearing ... Instead, they have chosen to wait until the hearings are concluded and to make the assertion in the media."

Posted by Steve Bousquet at 03:00:53 PM on June 22, 2009
in State agencies Permalink

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