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Long IslandColumnistsJoye Brown

Nassau jail health dispute ‘going to be messy,’ Maragos says

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos speaks in Massapequa

Nassau County Comptroller George Maragos speaks in Massapequa on March 19, 2013. Credit: Howard Schnapp

County Executive Edward Mangano said Wednesday that he expected the comptroller’s office to begin approving payments to Armor Correctional Health Services, the embattled vendor for jail medical care which hasn’t been reimbursed for services provided since July.

But that’s not going to be happening, and likely not anytime soon, according to George Maragos, Nassau’s comptroller, who is continuing to block payments until the comptroller’s office receives verification that Armor met the terms of its contract.

“This is going to be messy,” Maragos said in an interview.

Thus far, Maragos is still hanging onto Armor’s July payment of about $968,000 because the performance data for June the office received was incomplete and covered the wrong period of time.

So the paperwork was returned last week to the sheriff’s department.

And now, Maragos said Wednesday, he’s holding onto Armor’s August payment of about $968,000 too. Because the performance data had the wrong signatures, although one was from a deputy county executive.

The problem? Armor’s contract calls for performance data to be signed off by a “health administrator.” And Maragos doesn’t believe either signature meets that mark. To compound matters, Maragos isn’t even certain that the “health administrator” post was even filled when the work was done.

“We may end up having to go to the county attorney for an opinion on what signatures can be accepted,” Maragos said.

And as for Armor’s September payment, the sheriff’s office hasn’t yet submitted an invoice, much less performance data.

All of which will compound Mangano’s hopes for a smooth transition as the county’s time with Armor — which remains under scrutiny after a series of inmate deaths and a recent state attorney general’s lawsuit alleging, among other things, poor inmate care — draws to an end.

Last week, Armor — which has denied allegations in the AG’s civil suit — released a statement saying it would be a breach of contract if Nassau didn’t pay the firm’s recent bills. Yet, as Maragos holds firm, Nassau has yet to select and approve a new medical care vendor for the jail.

Which creates a potential vise for Mangano — which could tighten should Armor decide to walk before its pact ends in May.

Mangano, in an interview, said he expected Armor to honor its contract. And he said that once a new vendor was selected, Nassau would invoke its right to cancel Armor’s contract with 30 days’ notice — a move Armor’s critics have been pushing for months.

As for replacements, Mangano said several firms had expressed interest. Once the selection process is complete, he said, “I will ask the legislature to take it up as quickly as possible.”

Mangano also is awaiting legislative approval to hire a California not-for-profit, Community Oriented Correctional Health Services, to monitor Armor’s work through the end of the year.

Maragos — whose office approved millions of dollars in Armor payments before the AG filed suit — said he would keep an eye on the jail’s future medical provider.

“We get the contract after it is approved by the legislature,” he said. “We will be checking on the vendor’s qualifications and its medical service history.”

Which, given the brouhaha over Armor, would be an essential check at the beginning of the selection process, too.

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