Nassau County’s comptroller said Tuesday he plans to hold off on paying the county jail’s outgoing medical provider about $1 million at a time, until the controversial vendor provides performance data going back more than four years.
If Armor Correctional Health Services doesn’t submit those “historic” statistics by the time it bills for November, the comptroller expects to deduct the maximum penalty possible for missed performance standards going back to 2012 before paying what’s then left of the company’s bill for that month -- usually about $1 million.
Comptroller George Maragos’ comments in an interview Tuesday evening followed statements by his staff Monday saying he had rejected Armor’s September bill, and would halt all payments to Armor until the company provided the contractually required data.
Earlier Tuesday, Nassau Sheriff Michael Sposato had said in a statement that such a position was a “dangerous action,” and could “threaten the life and welfare of both staff and inmates” along with the East Meadow jail’s security.
Sposato added that Maragos’ “political ambitions and desperation for headlines” were “clearly behind” his decision.
But Maragos, who is seeking to run for county executive, told Newsday later Tuesday that while he had rejected Armor’s September bill, he never decided to stop all payments to the company and “it was not appropriate” if his staff had indicated otherwise.
The comptroller added that if Armor resubmitted its September bill, his office would pay it because it had received the vendor’s October bill — also roughly $1 million — and could hold off on making that payment “in anticipation of them providing the historic statistics.”
Maragos added: “Until they provide us those statistics, those metrics, we want to be ahead of the game and withhold, and retain at least one month’s payment.”
The comptroller’s stance follows an audit he released last week that blamed the sheriff’s department for failing to properly oversee Armor’s contract terms.
It requires the vendor to provide monthly stats showing that it is meeting performance standards in specific categories of patient care, with set fees for missed benchmarks.
In releasing the audit, Maragos said the sheriff’s department “appeared to be defending” Armor “rather than holding them accountable,” and didn’t monitor the company’s level of care or assess financial penalties.
An Armor spokeswoman said in part Tuesday night the company had no comment on “the status of outstanding payments” and hadn’t received any correspondence from Maragos about the payment issue. The sheriff, who runs the jail as an appointee of County Executive Edward Mangano, didn’t release a statement reacting to Maragos’ comments Tuesday evening.
A Mangano spokesman previously suggested Maragos’ audit was “slanted to his political aspirations,” and said Maragos paid Armor’s bills for five years without question. Last month, Maragos switched parties from Republican to Democrat and said he would seek his new political party’s nomination to run for Mangano’s job.
The comptroller’s latest stance on Armor follows his previous decision to temporarily halt payments to the vendor after the state attorney general filed a lawsuit against the company in July. The civil action followed a series of Nassau inmate fatalities and alleged Armor denied inmates adequate care. It was settled earlier this month, with Armor admitting no wrongdoing, paying a $350,000 fine and agreeing not to bid on New York contracts for three years.
The state Commission of Correction also has found Armor provided deficient care in connection with the deaths of five Nassau inmates since 2011.
Armor twice threatened a jail walkout after Maragos initially suspended its payments, while saying he first needed to see performance data coinciding with each monthly bill.
But after Maragos paid Armor’s July and August bills by mid-September, Mangano’s administration said on Oct. 7 -- the day Armor set for a potential walkout -- that the company had agreed to stay on as the jail transitioned to a new medical provider.