Stew Lilker’s

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Lifeguard v Columbia County – Over
Judge Johnson Rules: This Case is Moot

COLUMBIA COUNTY, FL – Circuit Court Judge Leandra Johnson, in a decision filed late Sunday afternoon, ruled in the case of Lifeguard Ambulance vs. Columbia County. In a ten page order Judge Johnson never got to the merits of the case. Instead, she ruled that the case was moot. Quoting from a series of cases, Judge Johnson wrote, "'As long as the decision was made in good faith, the courts will not generally interfere where the agency reaches a conclusion on facts upon which reasonable men may differ.’  The remedy in such cases is at the ballot box and not in the courts."

The judge began her decision: "This Court has considered the arguments presented, the Response of Respondent, Columbia County (“County”) filed on June 10, 2016, as well as the Reply filed by Lifeguard on June 30, 2016."

Judge Johnson then summarized the arguments and facts as presented by both Lifeguard and Columbia County.

She explained that the County Purchasing Policy gave Lifeguard the authority to appeal the decision of Purchasing Director Ray Hill to the County Commission.

Judge Johnson explained that Lifeguard requested an opportunity to present direct testimony and to conduct cross-examination of County staff and that the County Attorney (Joel Foreman) refused to allow this. Mr. Foreman claimed that due process would be provided by the Board’s review of the record and Lifeguard’s opportunity to make oral argument.

After the Board rejected Lifeguard's appeal, Lifeguard filed its Petition for Writ of Certiorari in the Circuit Court.

A month after the Petition for Writ of Certiorari was filed, the Board voted to reject all responses to the RFP and issue a new one.

Judge Johnson wrote, "As a result, the County argues that the Petition for Writ of Certiorari should be denied as moot on the grounds that the Board exercised its right to reject all proposals... the County contends that 'there is no Board determination to reverse and no contract award to Century to prevent.'"

Lifeguard disputed this claim. The cases that Lifeguard presented to the Court to back up its claim that the case was not moot were found deficient by Judge Johnson and not 'on point.'

Was the Decision of the County 5 Tainted?

Judge Johnson took special note to address the "narrow issue of whether the Board’s decision on June 2, 2016, to reject all proposals and issue a new RFP was tainted by illegality, fraud, oppression, or misconduct, this Court finds that none of these bases exist in the record. Accordingly, the decision was not arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious. As such, court interference would be inappropriate."

Quoting from established case law, Judge Johnson concluded her decision (citations omitted):

It is well established in Florida that a public entity's rejection of contract bids will be affirmed when challenged in court, unless the action of the public body was arbitrary, unreasonable or capricious. Even if the public entity makes an erroneous decision about which reasonable people may disagree, the discretion of the public entity to solicit, accept and or reject contract bids should not be interfered with by the courts, absent a showing of dishonesty, illegality, fraud, oppression or misconduct.

Issues Not Addressed

Judge Johnson continued, "Upon a finding that this cause is moot, this Court does not address the substantive issues raised in the Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Request for Injunctive Relief... The Petition for Writ of Certiorari and Request for Injunctive Relief is denied as moot."


Yesterday afternoon your reporter contacted Lifeguard's President Brett Javanovich for a comment. A couple of hours later Mr. Jovanovich released the following statement, "We are very disappointed in the decision, as we felt the facts and figures around a failed process were compelling. Over the last five years, we have proudly served the Columbia County community with nationally-recognized and accredited, life-saving services. We are grateful for our team and the care they have provided; our attention will now be focused on collaboratively working towards the next steps."

County Manager Ben Scott refused comment.

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