Originally created 01/23/04

Evaluator's best scores went to future employer



ATLANTA - As a state bid evaluator, Robert Lanier gave high marks to the company that won the contract to run Augusta's long-term juvenile detention center. Ten days after the contract was awarded, he joined the company.

An analysis of rating sheets shows Mr. Lanier was generous to Sarasota, Fla.-based Youth Services International, giving the company his highest score in nine of 15 categories - more than any other rater.

But other evaluators were generous to the company, too. Removing Mr. Lanier's scores from the committee's averages would not have affected the outcome, because Youth Services submitted the lowest bid to manage the Augusta Youth Development Campus.

Mr. Lanier, who joined the Florida company as a program administrator on Dec. 29, said he did nothing improper. Current YDC operator Unique Solutions has filed a formal protest, which is likely to be discussed Monday at the meeting of the Juvenile Justice Department's board of directors.

The contract begins Feb. 16 and will pay Youth Services between $6.8 million and $8.4 million per year.

Mr. Lanier, a contractor for Juvenile Justice at the time, joined four department officials in grading the technical merits of proposals submitted by the companies. Of the three qualified bids, they rated Augusta-based Unique Solutions the best, Youth Services second and Richmond, Va.-based Securicor last. The Florida company won because they bid $196.50 per child per day, while Unique Solutions bid $325 per child per day.

Administrative Services officials say Mr. Lanier is identified in the anonymous evaluations as rater No. 4. Rater No. 4 issued Youth Services three "excellent" grades, 11 "very good" and one "good." Securicor got 14 "very good" scores and one "good." Unique Solutions received one "excellent" and 14 "very good" grades from No. 4.

In 12 categories, rater No. 4 scored Youth Services lower or equal to the average given by the whole evaluation committee.

Brett Brannon, the CEO of Unique Solutions, said the numerical scores Mr. Lanier gave Youth Services are irrelevant. The team discussed the proposals as a group and did their grading as a group, so a member with an agenda could influence all five scores, Mr. Brannon said.

"If you know what the budget is, what cost proposal that you've got to get in, all you've got to do is keep the technical scores close," Mr. Brannon said.

Contacted by phone Thursday, Mr. Lanier referred specific questions to Juvenile Justice spokeswoman Jaci Vickers. "I can say that there was no conflict, and I wish I could discuss it more with you," said Mr. Lanier, who is working for the Youth Services' Georgia Aftercare Program and Services, which tracks children released from detention for Juvenile Justice.

Ms. Vickers said she could not comment because Administrative Services is still reviewing the protest.

Reach Walter Jones at (404) 589-8424 or Johnny Edwards at (706) 823-3225.