Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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The County 5 Puts Taxpayers on the Line, More Legal Fees on the Way, NGN Thinks it Has a Plan

Lifeguard's top brass, attorney, and  PR gal, listen to County Attorney Joel Foreman explain that the County's outside counsel, NGN, think it has a plan to "do-over" The 5's RFP debacle.

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Last night at the Columbia County 5 (The 5) bimonthly County Commission meeting, the Sylvester "Bucky" Nash Board demonstrated why Americans all over the land have had their fill of politicians. In a 5-0 vote, without any substantive discussion, The 5 voted to "do-over" its April 21 decision to award the county-wide EMS ambulance contract to Century Ambulance and negotiate a contract with them. The County began negotiations; Lifeguard Ambulance sued The 5. Lifeguard looked like it had the upper hand in the courts.

Last night, The 5, claiming to be acting under the advice of its outside counsel, Nabors, Giblin, & Nickerson (NGN), decided to take a shot and recommended a do-over, in spite of the fact that The 5 had no parliamentary or legal way to un-do their April 21 actions.

Columbia County taxpayers will be reaching into their collective pockets to pay more extensive legal fees to NGN and to its elected County Attorney, Joel Foreman.

 Both Century and Lifeguard will be contemplating more legal actions against The 5, which will generate more legal fees for the taxpayers.


Sometime after the first of the year (2016) the County put out a Request for Proposals (RFP). The heading on the document read:


The responses were due on February 24, 2016. True to the County's policy of not dating many of its documents, there is no date of origin on the RFP.

On February 22, 2016, an addendum to the RFP was posted on the internet. This was not dated.

On March 3, 2016, the Ranking and Rating Committee met to evaluate the submissions to the RFP. None of the evaluation sheets are dated, including that of the County's Purchasing Director, Ray Hill, who chaired the committee.

On March 9, 2016, the Ranking and Rating Committee met again. This time Ray Hill and 911 Director Tom Brazil dated their submissions. The others did not.

On March 10, 2016, a document called "Final Ranking" was prepared by County Manager Ben Scott, the former County Purchasing Director. The document showed Century ranked number 1 and is undated.

On March 11, 2016, Lifeguard filed a bid protest.

On or about March 22, 2016, Purchasing Director Hill, in an undated letter to Lifeguard, rejected Lifeguard's bid protest.

There is no record of review by elected County Attorney Foreman.

On March 29, 2016, Lifeguard appealed Mr. Hill's rejection to the County 5.

On April 21, 2016, the County 5 heard Lifeguard's appeal of Director Hill's decision rejecting Lifeguard's bid protest.

The 5 rejected the protest and awarded the contract to Century Ambulance and directed the County staff to negotiate a contract with Century.

On May 20, 2016, Lifeguard filed a lawsuit in circuit court against the County 5, claiming what they had done was illegal.

Thursday, June 2 at The Homeless County 5

During the March 2, 2016, review committee hearing it was clear that Purchasing Director Ray Hill did not have a handle on the events when he told the committee, "I'm learning this as I go."

Neither 911 Director Brazil, nor Asst. Fire Chief Crawford, seemed confused when they gave long dissertations on the reasons they chose Century over Lifeguard. They were fully engaged.

The last committee member, Asst. County Manager Scott Ward, spent most of the March 2 meeting slouched over or leaning back in his chair, appearing to be half-a- sleep.

Mr. Ward claimed that during his previous employment for the Alachua County School District he had eight years of experience "with the direct supervision of Purchasing."

Columbia County's anointed County Manager, Ben Scott, was the County Purchasing Director from 1999 to 2011. The County did not require him to become certified and he never did.

At its June 2 meeting, the County 5 was to decide whether or not to vote to throw out all the bids for county-wide ambulance service and do a total "do-over."

In a memo dated May 26, 2016, County Attorney Foreman presented The 5 with a scheme devised by himself and outside counsel, NGN, to throw out all bids and go back to the drawing board.

On June 2, Mr. Foreman told The 5, "Our outside counsel (NGN) have (sic) looked at this and based upon their review of our policies, as well as the nature of the RFP that was actually responded to, it's fairly clear that there is confusion throughout this process... There's confusion on the County side with the review committee about how to evaluate the answers they received."

Mr. Foreman agreed with NGN's prognosis that "legal should have direct supervision over the process [and] have a brand-new review committee..."

Mr. Foreman mentioned that the committee "would learn how to rank."

Century's CEO John Glover

Mr. Glover appeared furious before the meeting. Your reporter asked him if he was contemplating legal action against the County if they threw out his award. He said, "I am only here to address the County Commission."

Mr. Glover came to the microphone, "Six weeks ago this commission voted resoundingly to name us as the contract provider for EMS services for Columbia County... essentially, the County Atty. has indicted the process that this County undertook. I am sad for that, but as a participant in that process I assure you that it was done with integrity, due diligence, and research."

Mr. Glover continued, "We thought it was a very well-written RFP. It covered all the dimensions, very deep, and we responded responsibly. It was straightforward and it was fair. I'm asking you to affirm the decision made six weeks ago and let others get to work."

Lifeguard's Attorney Gary Perko addressed The 5

Lifeguard's Atny Gary Perko appeared with Tony Anteau, Vice President of Operations.

"This recommendation to effectively reject all bids and re-issue the RFP was somewhat surprising to us when we saw it last Friday because, number one -- we have already petitioned the court to review the prior decision, so the matter is within the jurisdiction of the court. It's not clear to me that this commission has the ability to reject all bids at this point."

Mr. Perko continued, "Putting aside the legal issue, I would suggest that it is not appropriate to reject all bids at this time... because it's not clear to me how you put the cat back in the bag. How you would revise that RFP to undo the prejudice that has already occurred to Lifeguard. You are essentially giving Century a second bite at the apple to fix the problems with their response that they did not meet before. How you change the RFP to address that issue -- frankly, I can't think of a way."

"What you are really doing is giving them an opportunity to fix the problems after they've seen our bid. I would suggest to you that that is anti-competitive and it is just plain unfair."

"We would urge you not to vote to reject all bids."

Part II: No Mechanism to do the "Do-Over" 

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