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Former Virginia Beach Sheriff Received Insider Information on Jail Contract

by Matt Clarke

Within a few days after his retirement as Sheriff of Virginia Beach, Virginia in late 2009, Paul Lanteigne went to work for Conmed Healthcare Management, Inc. and began exchanging emails with and receiving documents from his former coworkers at the Sheriff’s Department. The subject of the emails and documents was a $3.5 million-per-year contract to provide health care for prisoners at the Virginia Beach jail. The total value of the three-year contract, including two years of optional extensions, could reach $17.5 million.

Some of the information provided to Lanteigne was publicly available and some was not. Five companies had submitted bids for the contract. Conmed and Correctional Medical Services (CMS) were short-listed as finalists. Conmed, a publicly-traded company with operations in seven states, had won an $18 million contract for health care services at the jail in Chesapeake, Virginia in 2008, but lost a bid for the jail in Norfolk. CMS, a privately-held company, operates in 19 states. It had held the Virginia Beach contract for 25 years – including 10 during which Lanteigne was sheriff.

Lanteigne was given an early copy of the draft request for proposals (RFP). The RFP was similar to the version used previously with a few exceptions. It called for the use of specific software – software that Conmed used but CMS did not. The RFP also asked whether the bidder had previously lost a contract and requested information on litigation against the company. As a larger firm with a longer track record, CMS presumably had a more extensive history in both categories.

Two weeks after Lanteigne was sent a final draft of the RFP, a copy was made public. Conmed was eventually awarded the contract in September 2010, even though the company’s bid was slightly higher than CMS’s offer.

Virginia procurement experts universally agreed that no state laws had been broken. However, providing one prospective vendor with information not provided to other prospective vendors was deemed unseemly and against industry standards.

“I’m not happy about what took place,” said Kenneth Stolle, the current Virginia Beach Sheriff, who was elected with Lanteigne’s support (including $10,000 in campaign donations). “It allows the perception that there was inside information or a stream of information that Paul was getting that was not available to anyone else.”

“The principle coming into play, of course, is maintaining a level playing field for all participants,” stated Brent Maas, spokesman for the National Institute of Government Purchasing. “They should all have the opportunity to receive the same information in the same period of time.”

“I wouldn’t share a draft form with the marketplace,” said Virginia procurement expert and Henrico County General Services Director Paul Proto. “That’s not a best practice.”

Sheriff Stolle claimed he was not involved in the contract procurement decision due to his lengthy friendship with Lanteigne. Instead, he put Chief Deputy Marc Schuster and Capt. Victoria Thomson over awarding the contract. However, Schuster had emailed Lanteigne public documents related to the procurement bid, and Thomson sent him both public documents and multiple drafts of the RFP well before it was made public. “To be completely candid, Paul had a huge advantage,” Stolle acknowledged.

Considering the changes to the RFP that seemed to favor Conmed, one has to wonder if the exchange of information with Lanteigne was one way or if his former coworkers wanted to do him a favor by ensuring his new employer landed the jail’s lucrative health care contract. CMS did not contest the contract award and no longer has any contracts in Virginia.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot

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