Judge rejects Dept. of Corrections monitoring contract

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In a long-running legal fight, a state judge this week said the Florida Department of Corrections should scrap plans to award a contract to a company for the electronic monitoring of thousands of sex offenders and people under house arrest, reports Jim Saunders of the News Service of Florida.

Administrative Law Judge E. Gary Early found that the company, BI Incorporated, did not submit required information when bidding for the contract, including information about a 12-hour outage in a monitoring system in 2010.

Early issued a 76-page recommended order that said the contract should instead be awarded to a rival firm, Pro Tech Monitoring Inc., which currently provides monitoring services to the state and launched the legal challenge in December 2010. The issue goes back to the department for final action.

The judge said BI, which was purchased last year by the Boca Raton-based Geo Group, also did not submit required information about government contracts in other parts of the country and a disaster recovery plan. In part of the recommended order, Early said BI received a competitive advantage by not submitting all of the required information.

“The first advantage is the immeasurable advantage conferred by withholding information on its contracts, and possible problems related thereto (to the contracts),” Early wrote. “The more direct advantage is the time saved by BI as a result of its decision to forego the work necessary to compile the contracts and provide a narrative summary of their performance.”

But in a document filed last month, BI’s attorneys wrote that the department “engaged in a detailed and thorough review of voluminous responses from multiple vendors” and did not act improperly in reaching the contract decision. Also, the state would save money by awarding the contract to it instead of Pro Tech.

“The end result of the department’s proposed award will result in a contract that will save the state significant amounts of money,” the BI filing said. “These cost savings are a legitimate factor for the department to consider in reaching its contract award decision.”

The dispute centers on a contract to use global positioning satellite technology to monitor people sentenced to a type of house arrest known as “community control” and people designated sex offenders and predators under the state’s Jessica Lunsford Act.

Early’s recommended order said the department used the technology to monitor 2,538 people in mid-2010, and that the number was expected to top 3,000 within three years. BI, which proposed to use a type of ankle monitor, said in the document last month that its bid totaled $3 a day for each unit, while Pro Tech’s bid was $5.50 a day.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.