When the county declined to renew the HCDC contract in August 2010, the Hernando County Commission withheld a final $1.86 million payment to CCA. With the sheriff taking over operation of the jail, a dispute arose about inventory inside the facility and how much money CCA owed for failing to properly maintain the jail. The HCDC had rusty doors, cracks in the walls and floors, and water damage from roof leaks.
The county paid for an engineering report that determined it would take $14.9 million in repairs and remodeling to bring the jail up to acceptable standards. The report found that CCA was responsible for about $1 million of deferred maintenance at the facility. Negotiations between the county and CCA were unsuccessful, and CCA filed suit seeking the final payment withheld by the county.
"The actual amount of the dispute was considerably smaller" then the $1.86 million payment that was held back, acknowledged assistant county attorney Jon Jouben. The mediation agreement, approved by the County Commission on February 17, 2012, specified that $100,000 would go to the county with the rest of the payment, which had been held by the federal court overseeing the litigation, going to CCA. A final judgment entered on March 5, 2012 stated that each party would pay their own attorney's fees and costs.
"In any successful mediation, neither side gets exactly what they're looking for," said Jouben. "It was the best outcome we could hope for under the circumstances," added County Commissioner Dave Russell. See: CCA v. Hernando County, U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 8:10-cv-02182-RAL-EAJ.
CCA had experienced a number of problems while operating the Hernando County jail, including three prisoner suicides within a 3-month period plus multiple escapes. About half of CCA's employees were not state certified; some were found to have falsified cell check logs, and at least two were charged with abusing prisoners, one was charged with assisting in an escape attempt and one pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual misconduct with a 17-year-old detainee.
When the county took over the HCDC, most of CCA's 177 employees at the jail applied to retain their jobs. Only 45 were hired. According to Sheriff's Office Major Michael Page, most failed background checks or didn't meet hiring standards. "Frankly," he said, "I don't understand why a few of them weren't in jail."
According to county officials, in the first year after ending the contract with CCA the county spent $1 million less to operate the HCDC. "We have saved a tremendous amount of money with the sheriff coming in and running the jail," stated County Commissioner John Druzbick. "The cost is substantially lower than with CCA."
CCA spokesman Steve Owen said the company was "proud" of its partnership with Hernando County – presumably until the county decided not to renew its contract and withheld funds due to CCA's failure to properly maintain the jail, leading CCA to sue the county in federal court.
Sources: www.tampabay.com, Hernando Today, www.baynews9.com
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Related legal case
CCA v. Hernando County
|U.S.D.C. (M.D. Fla.), Case No. 8:10-cv-02182-RAL-EAJ