The Loudoun County Board of Supervisors on Thursday approved a two-year, $4.7 million contract with Correct Care Solutions to provide medical and psychiatric services to inmates at the Loudoun County Adult Detention Center.
The Nashville-based company has been providing those services at the jail for more than a decade. However, several supervisors expressed frustration with the selection process, saying they had little choice but to stay with the current provider, even though two competing firms submitted proposals with lower price tags.
Supervisors also questioned whether the process of reviewing the proposals had been tainted because Correct Care Solutions has made campaign contributions to Sheriff Michael L. Chapman (R), who is responsible for overseeing the contract.
Correct Care Solutions, formerly known as Conmed, has provided medical and psychiatric services to inmates at the jail for 12 years, according to a staff report. The company has made periodic financial contributions to the reelection campaigns of Chapman and his predecessor, Stephen O. Simpson.
Supervisors’ concerns about the contract first surfaced publicly at the June 13 meeting of the board’s Finance Committee.
“I have significant unrest with this item,” Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis J. Randall (D-At Large) said, adding that the committee had few options because the contract would expire soon. “We literally have no choice today [other] than to extend this contract because . . . the contract is up” June 30.
Randall and board Vice Chair Ralph M. Buona (R-Ashburn) criticized state regulations that prohibit the staff group evaluating the proposals from considering cost when ranking the firms. Under the regulations, the staff-member group was able to negotiate costs only with the top-ranked firm.
Two of the four providers competing for the contract submitted lower nonbinding fee proposals than Correct Care Solutions. One was $600,000 less.
“In my opinion, we are wasting $600,000 in taxpayer money over the next two years,” Buona said. “Because the system says you can only negotiate price with the number-one-ranked guy. And we can’t request a binding price with their proposal.
“The state’s procurement system is rigged, and it’s rigged for special interests,” Buona said.
Randall, a mental-health therapist who formerly counseled inmates in Prince William County, said she was knowledgeable about the companies that had submitted proposals.
Correct Care Solutions is “a good company,” she said. “But I’m also familiar with the other ones, and I don’t know that one outpaces the other to the tune of $600,000.”
After confirming that there would be a provision allowing termination of the contract before it expires, Randall asked that the staff be directed to analyze the cost effectiveness of having county staff members directly provide medical and psychiatric health-care services to the inmates.
Correct Care Solutions drew attention in 2011 when The Washington Post reported that the company had made campaign contributions to Simpson over a seven-year period. The company has also made several campaign contributions to Chapman since he defeated Simpson in 2011.
Campaign finance reports indicate that Chapman’s campaign accepted $3,880 in contributions from a representative of Correct Care Solutions in 2014. According to the Virginia Public Access Project, the company gave Chapman’s campaign $3,000 in 2016. Chapman, who was reelected in 2015, will not be up for election again until 2019.
Cheryl Middleton, the county purchasing agent, said in an email that the staff group that evaluated the proposals for the medical services contract — and gave the top ranking to Correct Care Solutions — included three representatives of the sheriff’s office and one from the county Department of Mental Health, Substance Abuse and Developmental Services.
Sheriff’s office spokesman Kraig Troxell said in a written statement that Chapman was not involved in the selection process.
Supervisor Koran T. Saines (D-Sterling) abstained from the final vote on the contract because of the campaign contributions to Chapman.
“We know that the sheriff was not part of the process,” Saines said. “Not saying the sheriff did anything wrong, because we know it’s legal for him to do so. . . . I just have a personal belief that I [should] abstain from the vote.”
Buona responded that corporations routinely make contributions to politicians.
“Every one of us have corporate contributions,” he said, adding that Chapman “did not participate in the evaluation whatsoever.”
The board approved the contract 8 to 0, with Saines abstaining.