Superior Court Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli rules against Hudson County freeholders in pay-to-play lawsuit

Superior Court Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli

Superior Court Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli rules against Hudson County freeholders in pay-to-play lawsuit

Publication: Jersey Journal
Date: December 17, 2009

The Hudson County Board of Freeholders should have sought new bids rather than drastically reducing a contract to provide medical services at the county jail and juvenile detention center.

Superior Court Assignment Judge Maurice Gallipoli voided that amendment in a written decision Tuesday, saying the Board of Freeholders shouldn't have awarded the contract in the first place.

In his 14-page opinion, Gallipoli said allowing the amended contract to stand "would allow for the award of a contract which was never really put out for public bid."

At issue is a contract the board awarded to Correctional Health Services of Verona for medical services at the county jail and juvenile detention center. 

The freeholders approved a $29.7 million contract in April, before it hired a consultant who recommended a 35 percent staffing reduction, drastically reducing the cost of the contract.

Instead of seeking new bids on the reduced services, the county amended its agreement with CHS in August to $22 million.  CFG Health Systems, of Evesham, filed a lawsuit last month accusing the county of circumventing the law when it awarded the contract to CHS. CFG had submitted a $38.3 million bid.

In his decision Gallipoli questioned why the county sought lump sum bids and did not get a line item costs until after it awarded the contract to CHS.  He said a favored bidder could be told to "bid very low to get the award with the expectation that, despite the low bid, much less work than was called for in the bid specifications would need to be provided."

With the amendment thrown out, the Board of Freeholders will have to decide whether it plans to maintain a$29.7 million contract with CHS or seek new bids.

Freeholder William O’Dea said he plans to introduce a resolution at Monday’s caucus meeting to terminate the contract with CHS and seek new bids, which include a cost breakdown at the time of submission.

Should the freeholders seek new bids, CFG Chief Executive Officer Les Paschall said the company would submit a new proposal.  "It is clear that Judge Gallipoli’s decision is in the interest of the Hudson County taxpayers and we would welcome an opportunity to save the taxpayers additional dollars should the freeholders listen to his strong recommendation to re-bid the contract," he said in a statement.

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