Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

Real news for working families.  An online newspaper

County News

Lifeguard Ambulance Protests Again: 12th Hour Do-Over Mires the County 5 in More Litigation

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – On June 2, 2015, the people's County Attorney, Joel Foreman, with the outcome of the first Ambulance RFP tied up in litigation, sided with the County's outside counsel, Nabors-Giblin-Nickerson (NGN) and recommended that the County 5 reject all previous EMS Ambulance Service bids and do a "do-over." The 5 took Mr. Foreman's advice and rejected all bids. Then, a new RFP was developed with the help of NGN. A new ranking committee was formed. Unsurprisingly, on July 13 Century Ambulance was ranked number 1. On July 22, Lifeguard formally protested the bid to Purchasing Director, Ray Hill.


On April 21, 2016, after a bollixed up procurement process for County-Wide EMS Ambulance Service, the County 5 voted 4-1 to take the "staff recommendation" to negotiate with Century Ambulance.

Com Ronald Williams   (file)

Thirty-four year veteran County Commissioner, Ronald Williams made the motion. "Mr. Chairman, I move that we take staff recommendation and let the hell fly where it may."

No County public official or staff member would reveal who the "staff" was. (See:  Columbia County 5: Another Procurement Scandal)

On May 2 at 4:58 pm, Lifeguard filed suit against Columbia County claiming various improprieties in the bidding process and the Century Ambulance bid.

On June 2, 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. The 5, claiming to be acting under the advice of its outside counsel, NGN, and seemingly on thin ice in the courts, threw a Hail-Mary pass and threw out all the bids and started over. (The County 5 Puts Taxpayers on the Line, More Legal Fees on the Way, NGN Thinks it Has a Plan)

On June 24, the County issued a "new" RFP for Ambulance Service.

On July 8, responses to the new and purportedly improved RFP were received at the County.

On July 13, a new review committee recommended Century Ambulance as number 1.

On July 15, the Lifeguard – Columbia County 5 saga continued. Lifeguard filed a Notice of Intent (NOI) to protest the most recent Century Ambulance selection with Purchasing Director Ray Hill.

Lifeguard's Abbreviated Claims

The County was without authority to re-solicit proposals until the litigation related to the prior solicitation was resolved.

The County's attempt to reject all proposals and re-solicit countywide ambulance services was contrary to the Purchasing Policies and Procedures of Columbia County and well-settled legal principles.

The latest proposals reflected the type of "impermissible competitive advantage for Century Ambulance Service that occurs when the procurement process is improperly executed the first time and a new solicitation is issued that favors one bidder over another."

Lifeguard's Formal Protest

The protest

On July 22, Lifeguard followed up with a formal written protest to Purchasing Director Ray Hill.

Lifeguard claimed that "disputed material facts and conclusions of law" served as the basis for its protest of the recent intended award to Century Ambulance.

Lifeguard repeated and enumerated the three points in its Notice of Intent to Protest

Lifeguard claimed that the bid specifications were "contrary to competition, arbitrary or capricious." (The new bid specifications were clearly designed by or with NGN. Ed)

• Most of the scoring criteria had no objective scoring metrics in place to measure what would make one proposal more desirable than another.

• “Quality of insurance networks” was given a four-fold increase in importance in the second solicitation despite the fact that network participation had been irrelevant for emergency services since 2010.

• “Accreditation” was made the least important criterion despite direction from the County 5 to have the second solicitation focus on quality of services, including the input of the medical director in development of the specifications. The County’s evaluation of the proposals was fundamentally flawed.

• The County’s evaluation team evaluated and scored the proposals inconsistently and incorrectly, both individually and as compared to one another. The inconsistent scoring highlights the subjective nature of the procurement and the absence of a consistent understanding among evaluators as to how to score each submission.

• The evaluation team scoring of the quality of insurance networks criterion is not supported by logic or the facts as demonstrated by the proposals. Two of the evaluators scored Lifeguard’s proposal with a “zero” in the category related to quality of insurance networks despite the fact that Lifeguard’s proposal identified insurance networks with which it was affiliated. Two evaluators scored Century and Excelsior Ambulance Service equally despite the fact that Excelsior listed more than 200 private insurers with which it had an affiliation and Century listed just 5.

• In its proposal, Century significantly overstated the experience and success of its personnel designated to lead its Columbia County operations.

• Lifeguard currently provides emergency ambulance services in Columbia County; Century is a transport ambulance service and stand-by emergency service provider. Lifeguard has experience managing a 911 emergency service. Century has no demonstrated experience managing a 911 service.

• Each reference letter submitted by Century as part of its proposal focuses on Century’s role as a stand-by service provider, not the manager and full-time operator of an emergency response service. The scoring of the reference letters is based on neither logic nor reason.

Lifeguard's Request to Purchasing Director Hill

Lifeguard requested that Purchasing Director Hill determine that the proposed contract award to Century Ambulance Service was contrary to the Purchasing Policies and Procedures of Columbia County; contrary to competition; arbitrary or capricious; and otherwise contrary to the law.

Lifeguard requested that Mr. Hill reject all proposals submitted in response to the RFP do-over.

The Observer's Request for Comments

Yesterday afternoon, the Observer asked for comments from County Attorney Joel Foreman, County Manager Ben Scott, and County 5 Chair Sylvester "Bucky" Nash.

Mr. Foreman emailed back that it would be "inappropriate to comment at this time."

County Manager Ben Scott and Chairman Nash did not respond.

This afternoon, your reporter asked Purchasing Director Hill how his response to Lifeguard's protest was coming along.

Mr. Hill answered, "I'm working on it. I hope to have it completed today and will then send it on to the County Attorney for review. I think that the earliest it will go to Lifeguard will be by the end of business tomorrow."

Your reporter followed up, "Are you going to recommend that the award be put on hold until the court rules on Lifeguard's first protest."

Mr. Hill answered, "You know I can't tell you that."

Your reporter responded, "Thanks for talking with me. I had to try."

Comments  (to add a comment go here) 

This work by the Columbia County Observer is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial 3.0 United States License.

Meeting Calendar
No need to be confused - Find links to agendas and where your participation is welcome.

Make a comment • click here •
All comments are displayed at the end of the article and are moderated.


Related Articles: