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Augusta taxpayers dodge financial bullet thanks to judge's ruling

Tuesday, July 29, 2014 3:23 PM
Last updated 9:12 PM
  • Follow Crime & courts

Taxpayers dodged a financial punch when a judge ruled this month Augusta doesn’t have to pay attorney fees to the company that successfully sued the city over its bidding process.

Meritain, an independent subsidiary of Aetna insurance, sought more than $300,000 for legal expenses incurred in a suit against the city.

Meritain will receive the $33,917 it spent preparing a bid to oversee the city employees’ self-insured health insurance fund, Judge J. David Roper ruled in a July 8 order.

In late 2013 Meritain filed a Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit against the city after Blue Cross Blue Shield was awarded the contract with an annual estimated value of $20 million.

Roper agreed with Meritain’s legal position that state laws and the city’s purchasing ordinances were violated when the rules for awarding the bid were changed at the last minute. The change gave Blue Cross Blue Shield an unfair advantage over Meritain, which until that point was deemed the best company for the job, Roper found.

Compounding the unfair bidding process was the city’s commissioners handling of Meritain’s bid protest, the judge ruled in a scathing order last summer.

Commissioners voted Dec. 5, 2013, to deny Meritain’s bid protest without any evidence, public debate or giving Meritain’s representatives a chance to present its case.

Roper’s ruling and the city’s failure to file a timely appeal meant Augusta had to rebid the contract. City commissioners again selected Blue Cross Blue Shield to manage the fund, which provides health insurance for the city’s workforce of more than 2,000 employees and their families.

Although Meritain’s legal challenge was successful, the legal standard to award attorney fees required bad faith on the city’s part. Bad judgment and negligence doesn’t equate to bad faith, Roper wrote. There were legitimate legal questions to be decided in the lawsuit, he wrote.

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Riverman1
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Riverman1 07/29/14 - 02:32 pm
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A Good Thing For Richmond County

"Bad judgment and negligence doesn’t equate to bad faith, Roper wrote."

A good thing for Richmond County. Heh.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 07/29/14 - 02:34 pm
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Motto

Yeah, bad judgment and negligence might as well be the city's motto.

Pops
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Pops 07/29/14 - 03:22 pm
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"Bad judgment and negligence doesn’t equate

to bad faith, Roper wrote."

The commission won't be offended at all by that statement by the judge......they really don't get it........

Dixieman
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Dixieman 07/29/14 - 04:06 pm
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Little Lamb:

Brilliant! I love the new ARC motto: "Bad Judgment and Negligence"!!

dichotomy
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dichotomy 07/29/14 - 04:19 pm
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I hate to say it but I

I hate to say it but I disagree with Roper. I think there was indeed bad faith. I think the bid process was downright crooked and that the Procurement Office and Commission participated in a crooked, rigged bid....something that happens pretty frequently with our procurement office which has cost us a TON of money and given us some pretty pee poor performance and deliverables and a lot of lawsuits. If the commission wants to look for some money saving WASTE they need to yank the chain on that place and give it a good flush.

just an opinion
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just an opinion 07/29/14 - 08:07 pm
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So who in purchasing is responsible for this?

Taxpayers deserve to know? Are they protected by the commissioners from discipline?

nocnoc
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nocnoc 07/30/14 - 05:51 am
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Meritain will receive the $33,917

that cost them $300,000 in lawyer fees....UMMMMMM!

Seeing how they appear to of lost $266,083 in winning.

I can see why they were not the best choice to handle health insurance with these kind of wins.

corgimom
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corgimom 07/30/14 - 06:23 am
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LL, hahaha, good one!

LL, hahaha, good one!

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