Nassau County Executive Edward Mangano’s administration has asked the jail’s embattled inmate health care provider to begin negotiations immediately for a contract extension after ending talks with its hand-picked successor over a financial disagreement.
However, Armor Correctional Health Services sent mixed signals Friday about whether it was willing to stay beyond its May 31 contract termination date.
The for-profit company has come under fire during its Nassau jail tenure after a series of inmate deaths and allegations of negligent inmate care — the subject of a lawsuit from New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman that it settled last year.
An Armor spokeswoman said in a statement Friday that the Florida-based company’s “intent is to conclude their services no later than that date” in May.
But an Armor attorney also told county officials in a letter Thursday the company is willing to begin “to explore the possibility” of an extension based on certain terms.
The letter shows those terms would include contract modifications “relating to compensation” — what an administration official said referred to a desire for a pay rate increase.
The terms also would include an “understanding” that “relevant senior county officials,” including the legislature’s minority leader, the county comptroller and the correction officers’ union leader — all frequent Armor critics — “do not object to the parties undertaking such discussions.”
Deputy County Executive Charles Ribando said the administration was setting up a conference call with Armor for early next week to try to start negotiating a month-to-month contract.
“They understand the position we’re in. Although they really wanted to leave . . . they’re of course willing to negotiate until we can get somebody to transition,” Ribando said.
He also said the administration plans to issue a new request for proposals by the end of next week to try to attract bids for the jail medical contract in the county’s continued search for a permanent vendor.
Ribando added that the county would be forced to turn to Nassau University Medical Center to once again provide inmate care if Armor left after its contract was up and the county hadn’t yet hired a permanent vendor.
Mangano officials broke off talks last week with Tennessee-based Correct Care Solutions after months of negotiating with the for-profit company the county picked to replace Armor from three proposals submitted last year.
Legis. Minority Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Friday that Armor “is trying to mute” its critics. He said as a medical provider, Armor should know that leaving patients who potentially have no other way of getting treatment would hurt the company’s credibility.
“Good luck finding another contract in this country knowing that you walked out on patients,” Abrahams said.
The county should return to using NUMC, a county hospital just paces away from the jail in East Meadow, to care for inmates if at all possible, he said.
“If Armor’s ready to walk away, we’re ready to show them the door,” Abrahams said. “If NUMC is ready to step up and do it, why are we having this conversation with Armor?”
Legis. Siela Bynoe (D-Westbury) said she didn’t understand how Armor could ask for more money, considering what she called a track record of poor service.
County Comptroller George Maragos said the county shouldn’t extend Armor’s contract at all. He called NUMC “a viable option” as a temporary or even permanent inmate medical provider.
Correction union leader Brian Sullivan also said Friday that the jail should go back to using NUMC for inmate care if possible.
An NUMC spokeswoman declined to comment Friday.