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Insurer seeks nearly $500,000 from city

Thursday, Aug 22, 2013 7:04 PM
Last updated 9:03 PM
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The insurance company that won a major legal battle against Augusta over its bidding process is seeking nearly a half-million dollars in damages.

Meritain, an independent subsidiary of Aetna, filed the motion earlier this month in Richmond County Superior Court,

The company filed a civil suit after the Augusta Commission voted to give Blue Cross Blue Shield the contract to oversee the city employees’ self-insured health insurance fund Oct. 16. The commission then
denied Meritain’s bid protest Dec. 5.

Judge J. David Roper ruled in Meritain’s favor June 26 and ordered the city to rebid the potential $20 million contract for next year.

The city has asked the judge to reconsider, restating the same arguments that
already have failed to convince him.

Meritain is seeking $431,454 in damages – money the company says commissioners cost it needlessly.

Just more than $300,000 is for legal fees owed to Alston and Bird, an Atlanta firm experienced in government procurement litigation.

Meritain’s lawsuit followed numerous cases against Augusta on how the government awards contracts for goods and services. Such lawsuits face a significant legal hurdle; the government wins if there is any evidence supporting its choice in awarding a bid.

As Roper noted several times in his order, a judge is not allowed to substitute his own judgment over a governing body. The government’s bid award cannot be altered unless it has acted beyond its discretionary power, abused that discretion or acted in an arbitrary or capricious manner.

In a blistering rendition of the facts of the case, Roper found that commissioners voted to deny Meritain’s protest without hearing any evidence or public debate. He said the commission denied Meritain due process because neither the company nor anyone else had a chance to speak on the matter before the vote.

Roper agreed with Meritain’s legal team that state law and city ordinances were violated when the procurement director and the special consultant, who was romantically involved with a Blue Cross Blue Shield employee, changed the rules for the bid at the last minute, when Meritain was leading the pack by a wide margin
after the second round of judging.

The most unfair factor was that only Blue Cross Blue Shield, which had previously provided employees health insurance, had the information necessary to format a new bid proposal, the judge found.

Comments (10) Add comment
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fedex227
11187
Points
fedex227 08/22/13 - 09:30 pm
7
0
"The city has asked the judge to reconsider,
Unpublished

restating the same arguments that already have failed to convince him."

Maybe this time they said 'please'.

just an opinion
2623
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just an opinion 08/22/13 - 10:17 pm
7
0
Like Superintendent Roberson....

Our procurement director is UNTOUCHABLE. no matter what it cost!

my.voice
4801
Points
my.voice 08/22/13 - 11:02 pm
5
1
Tis time for ole Ms Sams to

Tis time for ole Ms Sams to move on down the road. Maybe she should be promoted to mr Shanahans old job? Isn't that how it normally works?

IBeDogGone
3014
Points
IBeDogGone 08/23/13 - 05:37 am
5
1
Honey with our Money

This is a sad for RC employees as well, I work daily with BCBS and Aetna and I can promise Aetna would have provided better service with better reimbursement to providers. I would hope that a person having the power Ms. Sams does would remember the old saying "You don't mix your Honey with your Money". In this case it is your Honey with the County's money! This is costing money in legal fees no matter what the final outcome is.

corgimom
32173
Points
corgimom 08/23/13 - 06:03 am
6
0
Is anybody surprised over

Is anybody surprised over this? Just more incompetence from the Commission, while they endlessly debate over an old golf course!

Dixieman
14942
Points
Dixieman 08/23/13 - 06:13 am
5
0
I just love...

...paying more taxes so Atlanta attorneys can get $300,000 because Augusta/Richmond County does not know how to properly award government contracts. What do ARC employees do all day long if they don't know the basics of this? It would have been cheaper to send them all to a procurement seminar in Hawaii....

nocnoc
42427
Points
nocnoc 08/23/13 - 06:48 am
3
0
ARC Needs to add a

stipulation to all bids.

No Lawsuits for Politics as usual.

nocnoc
42427
Points
nocnoc 08/23/13 - 06:54 am
2
1
Fud for thought

Many of us comment we have some lame commissioners.

Remember they are PART-TIME Commissioners.
There are 2 ways to look at it.

1. Think of the damage some could do as Full Time 40/60 hour a week Commissioners.

2. Maybe it is time we had dedicated 40/60 hour a week Commissioners running the 5th or 6th largest government in GA.
Think of all the Conflicts and of Interest that would be eliminated.

...point to ponder
755
Points
...point to ponder 08/23/13 - 08:00 am
2
1
... Who will take responsibility?

Is it Fred Russell? Is it our legal counsel team? Is it the entire elected Commission body? Or is it just the Procurement Director?

This recurring problem in our procurement system is laughable but very costly.

It's time for change and restructuring with new leadership.

All this wasted money flowing from bad decisions.... from housing((HUD rules violated) to procurement mismanagement... it's time for it to stop!

Little Lamb
45842
Points
Little Lamb 08/23/13 - 08:14 am
4
0
Last Paragraph

From the story:

The most unfair factor was that only Blue Cross Blue Shield, which had previously provided employees health insurance, had the information necessary to format a new bid proposal, the judge found.

This is quite disturbing. The city has this habit of writing bid specifications tailor-made for Ms. Sams’ preferred vendor. No one else has a fair shake.

grinder48
1945
Points
grinder48 08/23/13 - 08:17 am
0
0
Geri Sams
Unpublished

Isn't Geri Sams still head of the Procurement Department and isn't she the one who has cost ARC huge sums of money due to her inept procurement practices???

itsanotherday1
42867
Points
itsanotherday1 08/23/13 - 07:35 pm
0
0
The procurement director is

The procurement director is provably incompetent, but she is a protected class.

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