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Nassau rejects Armor’s latest attempt to end jail contract

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail

An aerial view of the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow Monday April 4, 2011. Credit: Kevin P Coughlin

Nassau County officials have rejected an attempt by the jail’s controversial inmate medical provider to end its contract by Wednesday, saying such an effort “threatens to create a public health and safety crisis” and would be met by court action.

Armor Correctional Health Services has since given “assurances” it will stay in place at the East Meadow facility and “work cooperatively to transition inmate health care services to a new provider,” County Attorney Carnell Foskey said in a statement.

Records show in late October Armor cited non-payment and late invoice payment as a “pattern of material breaches” by the county that justified its effort to terminate its contract by no later than Wednesday.

The Florida-based, for-profit company’s latest attempt to end its public-private partnership with the county marks its third threat of a jail walkout since September.

Armor said in a statement Tuesday it “is focused on patient care and is anxious to commence the transition with the selected vendor,” while its jail staff continues working under stress due to the uncertainty of their jobs.

After a bidding process, county officials have been negotiating a contract with another for-profit company to take over Armor’s role — an agreement legislators would have to approve.

Armor’s threats of an early withdrawal from the jail began after Nassau Comptroller George Maragos temporarily halted payments to the company in July, saying he would enforce Armor’s obligation to provide performance data that tracks patient care with its monthly invoices of about $1 million.

Maragos’ stance followed the state attorney general’s lawsuit against Armor that accused the company of providing substandard inmate care after a series of jail custody deaths. That civil action settled in October with Armor paying a $350,000 fine, accepting a three-year business ban in New York and admitting no wrongdoing.

Armor’s most recent effort to withdraw from the jail before its contract ends in May followed Maragos’ declaration in late October that he would hold off on paying about $1 million of the vendor’s bills at a time, until the company provided “historic” performance statistics going back more than four years.

The comptroller’s position came after his office’s release of a audit critical of Armor’s performance, when he also blamed the Sheriff’s Department for defending the company “rather than holding them accountable” for providing quality care.

In an Oct. 28 letter, an Armor attorney told Sheriff Michael Sposato, who runs the jail as a political appointee, that the county’s conduct made the company’s performance under the contract “impracticable.” He cited in part a disruption of “Armor’s operations and revenue” and actions by the comptroller.

But Foskey told Armor’s lawyer in a Nov. 14 response that the county hadn’t failed to make a recent payment on time, and was troubled by the company’s “continued attempts to disregard its contractual obligations.” He said Armor’s actions threatened “to interrupt the delivery of health care at the jail and create a real public health and safety crisis.”

Foskey wrote that Armor failed to provide at least 60 days’ prior written notice of termination, and its reasons for ending the contract were “inaccurate and legally unsupportable.”

He also said Armor had to supply “all missing performance reports requested by the comptroller” — saying that “breach” alone would bar the company from legally ending the contract. Foskey added that a resolution of the company’s dispute of a $155,000 penalty deducted from its July bill payment still was pending.

Maragos said in an interview the county paid Armor’s September invoice, but his office recently rejected its October bill after the vendor didn’t submit the patient care data going back to 2012 that he was seeking.

The comptroller said his office calculated an estimated penalty of $250,000, based on performance shortcomings from Armor’s recent bills, that represented an acceptable resolution if the company didn’t turn over the missing data.

Maragos said his office suggested to the Sheriff’s Office that Armor resubmit its October bill, including that penalty deduction, but the vendor hadn’t responded yet or submitted a November invoice.

Armor said Tuesday it hadn’t heard anything yet about such a “settlement offer.”


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