Stew Lilker’s

Columbia County Observer

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County Benghazies Lifeguard & the Public: Foreman/NGN Protest Response Untrue

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – The Lifeguard Ambulance – Columbia County 911 EMS selection faceoff continues. The latest in this saga occurred on July 26, when Purchasing Director Ray Hill responded to Lifeguard's most recent protest of the latest County RFP for 911 ambulance service. While the July 26 response was signed by Mr. Hill, it clearly comes from the pens of County Attny Foreman and the Tallahassee law firm of Nabors, Giblin & Nickerson (NGN). At least two of the County's responses don't make sense and are untrue.

The County response to Lifeguard's protest was broken up into four replies.

Read the papers

Lifeguard claimed that the County was without authority to re-solicit proposals for countywide ambulance service until the litigation related to the proposals wound its way through the court.

The County replied by telling Lifeguard to read the County's court filings.

The Ranking Committee
Each had his own unique view and was subjective

Lifeguard claimed that bid specifications were contrary to competition, arbitrary or capricious. Specifically, Lifeguard alleged that the Request for Proposal (RFP) specifications were vague; contained subjective criteria; and were inherently arbitrary or capricious.

The County claimed that Lifeguard's claims were without merit.

Ranking Commmittee scoring.

The County explained that the members of the evaluation committee each brought their own unique view to his evaluation and thus, their evaluation was subjective. (There were no women on the committee)

During the June 2, 2016 County 5 meeting, County Attorney Foreman said, the committee "would learn how to rank."

It is unknown if the Ranking Committee was ever trained or who did the training.

The County claimed scoring based on logic and reason
Ranking based on concern expressed by our citizens

The County went on to say that the scoring process and criteria were based on logic and reason, and the criteria for ranking the RFP was, among other things, based on areas of concern expressed by our citizens.

This is not true and it is not supported by the record. The County 5 never solicited citizen input.

Concern Expressed by Citizens
A Bogus Claim, a Look at the Facts

On May 21, 2015, Jason Kimbrell, Lifeguard's Regional Director of Operations gave an update of Lifeguard's Operations to the County 5. The 5 did not solicit comments from any citizens and none were given.

On August 2, 2015, Lifeguard's James Brinkley informed The 5 that Lifeguard had received accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Ambulance Services. There were no comments from The 5. No comments were solicited from any citizens regarding Lifeguard's performance or anything else about County 911 ambulance service.

On January 7, 2016, Lifeguard's contract came up at both a budget work shop and the business meeting of The 5. The workshop PowerPoint did not ask for citizen input, nor did it highlight anything regarding citizen concerns. The minutes reflect that a Barry Green was opposed to Lifeguard. His comments are absent from the minutes.

The general meeting of The 5 followed. The 5 extended Lifeguard's contract. There was no citizen input regarding ambulance service.

On April 21, 2016, the Lifeguard RFP was on the County 5 agenda. The minutes reflect that three people came forward to speak in favor of Lifeguard and two spoke against. There is no indication in the minutes regarding any of the concerns of the speakers, their affiliations or qualifications.

June 2, 2016, was the last time Lifeguard came up on the County docket before Lifeguard's litigation against the County commenced. No citizen expressed any concern about county-wide ambulance service of any kind.

The Medical Director, here "to advise the County"
So said County Manager Ben Scott

The protest

In its written protest, Lifeguard wrote that the "apparent failure of the County to involve a medical director" in the development of the second RFP "despite clear direction from the Board" was not logical.

Flashback: on September 17, 2015, the hiring of a new medical director to replace Lifeguard's Dr. Kim Landry mystically appeared on the County agenda.

County Manager Ben Scott explained that the County was required to have a medical director. Mr. Scott explained the FL Statutes required a medical director to advise the County. "The medical director sets up protocols, conducts training, counseling, and he checks on quality assurance. "Dr. Spindell does this. He's good at it," said Mr. Scott.

Mr. Scott also said that Dr. Spindell is located in North Florida and is more local.

Dr. Spindell was hired. He didn't show up to introduce himself.

On June 2, 2016, the County 5 rejected all recent ambulance responses to the RFP. The County 5 Puts Taxpayers on the Line, More Legal Fees on the Way, NGN Thinks it Has a Plan


However, before The 5 voted to tank all the original responses to the RFP, Chairman Nash requested that the new RFP include 6 items, one of which was:

 "The Medical Director should be involved in the process."  (minutes of June 2, 2016)

After some discussion, Commissioner Ronald Williams made the motion to put out a new RFP for Ambulance Service. The minutes reflect the following: MOTION by Commissioner Williams to accept special counsel's advice and redo RFQ and make sure to cross all t's and make sure that we know who is on first and rebid it."

While no one clarified the Commissioner Williams motion, all of Chairman Nash's requests were incorporated into the second RFP except that of the request for Medical Director involvement.

The Hill/Foreman/NGN response to Lifeguard's Protest regarding the lack of medical director involvement stated the following:

Although a suggestion was made by one Commissioner that the Medical Director be involved in the process, there has been no direction from the Board, as a whole, to do so. However, County staff did reach out to the Medical Director while preparing the RFP, but he was unavailable to assist due to a scheduling conflict. (emphasis added by the Observer)

The County's complete Protest Response is available here.



On August 18, barring any delays or postponements, oral arguments will be heard by Circuit Court Judge Leandra Johnson in the case of Lifeguard Ambulance vs. Columbia County.

Judge Johnson's decision may finally stop the out of control bleeding of the taxpayers before they need to call an ambulance to be put on life support.

Of course, the Foreman, NGN, County 5 Hail Mary legal strategy may yet cause the County to end up in the District Court of Appeals.

Stay tuned.

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