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Armor won’t bid to renew Nassau jail contract, officials say

This aerial view shows the Nassau County

This aerial view shows the Nassau County Jail in East Meadow. Credit: / Kevin P. Coughlin

The embattled medical provider at Nassau County’s jail said Tuesday it wouldn’t bid to renew its contract, and also signaled it could withdraw its operations before the agreement ends in May if the county doesn’t stick to terms of the public-private partnership.

Armor Correctional Health Service’s decision to not bid comes after Nassau Comptroller George Maragos refused to pay the vendor’s July bill of $968,000 and the company failed to submit an August bill for the same amount.

The developments follow State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman’s lawsuit, filed in July after a series of inmate deaths, accusing the Florida-based company of providing “woefully and dangerously inadequate health services.” It also alleged that Armor had defrauded Nassau taxpayers by continuing to take millions in public money and that county officials failed to take action to enforce performance-based terms of Armor’s contract.

Armor spokeswoman Yeleny Suarez said in a statement Tuesday that Armor “made a unilateral decision not to submit a proposal for the request to provide Nassau County medical services as it determined company resources would be better served in other jurisdictions.”

She said the company would work with the Sheriff’s Department and comptroller to guarantee a “swift, smooth and seamless transition” to a new inmate medical provider “as long as all parties adhere to the contractual terms of the current contract.” She declined to elaborate on specifics.

Suarez added that Armor “appreciates our five-year relationship” with the Sheriff’s Department and “are proud that we were able to significantly improve health care by almost every quantifiable measure while simultaneously and substantially reducing taxpayer costs.”

The company had said in March that it planned to bid after county officials issued a request for proposals for a new jail medical contract.

Sheriff Michael Sposato issued a statement Tuesday saying Armor had notified county officials they wouldn’t bid. He said it was the administration’s “understanding at this time” that Armor would maintain its jail operation until the county selects a new contractor, and remain on-site to “ensure a smooth transition.”

The comptroller has said he won’t pay Armor’s July bill — and bills going forward — until the company provides statistics for those months showing it met the performance standards in its contract. Those include meeting benchmarks in categories such as the time it takes Armor to answer sick calls and provide medication.

Comptroller’s spokeswoman Carla Hall D’Ambra said Tuesday that the county would have normally paid both July and August bills by now.

Armor said Friday it had provided July performance metrics to the Sheriff’s Department. But Maragos’ spokeswoman said her office didn’t get anything from the Sheriff’s Department until about 4 p.m. Tuesday, and the information was “not signed” and “incomplete.”

Since Armor first won a Nassau contract in mid-2011, the state Commission of Correction has found the company has provided inadequate care in connection with the deaths of five Nassau inmates. Armor and the county are now fighting federal lawsuits from the families of four of those inmates.

In addition, Schneiderman’s suit — which Armor has said it will fight — alleged that four of the five inmate deaths at the jail this year also “raise serious concerns” about Armor’s care.

Controversy surrounding Armor came to the forefront locally more than a year ago as the company’s contract expiration date approached in May 2015.

Former Nassau Bar Association president Marc Gann, acting state Supreme Court Justice Jerald Carter and the local New York Civil Liberties Union chapter expressed concerns about Armor’s care, but the legislature’s Republican-led Rules Committee still extended the company’s contract for another two years.

That June 2015 contract renewal, worth about $11 million annually, came after a Sheriff’s Department official said the department ran out of time to develop a proposal for new bids and renewing Armor’s contract was the only way to make sure inmate care wasn’t interrupted.

Mangano has touted the county’s public-private partnership with Armor as yielding an annual cost savings of about $7 million dollars. Administration officials have also cited Armor’s contract as a public safety boost, saying it significantly cut down on inmates being taken out of jail for medical care.

But in March, a group of Democratic county legislators called on Mangano to dump Armor and federal officials to intervene in what they called an “ongoing civil rights crisis” involving poor jail medical care.

“I’m not sad to see them go,” Legis. Laura Curran (D-Baldwin) said Tuesday of Armor. “Now we have to really make sure inmates are taken care of professionally, responsibly and with accountability.”

Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said minority party legislators “worked hard to bring change and oversight to the health care system at the jail” and she hoped the county would do “a thorough vetting process” while picking the next jail vendor.

“That’s long overdue,” Gann, the ex-bar association leader, said of Armor leaving Nassau. “I guess they finally got the hint that the public doesn’t want them to be the medical provider at the jail.”

Armor’s contract says the county can end the contract for any reason upon 30 days’ written notice, for “cause” immediately upon Armor’s receipt of written notice, and upon written agreement of both parties.

But Mangano’s administration said in November after the state found two 2014 inmate deaths “may have been prevented” that a legal review showed the county couldn’t cancel Armor’s contract “without subjecting taxpayers to significant liability.”

Last week, Mangano sent a $45,000 contract proposal to the legislature seeking to hire a California nonprofit to oversee Armor through year’s end and possibly also to help “during the transition of contractual health care services.”

Controversy surrounding Armor’s contract at Nassau’s jail has included:

The state Commission of Correction concluding the vendor provided inadequate care related to the deaths of five Nassau inmates since 2011.

The families of four Nassau inmates who have died filing federal lawsuits against Armor and the county.

A July lawsuit from New York’s attorney general alleging woefully deficient inmate care and seeking damages and penalties estimated at about $6 million.

Calls earlier this year from Democratic county legislators for federal officials to intervene in an “ongoing civil rights crisis” involving poor jail medical care.

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