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Going Off Protocol

Albany County Legislature approves a $25,000 no-bid contract

by Chet Hardin on February 11, 2010

Albany County Legislator Shawn Morse co-sponsored a resolution Monday to hire an Albany-based consultant to perform a study of Albany County’s nursing home. Morse, who represents the 18th District in Cohoes, said that the firm, HF John Group, will do a comprehensive study of the nursing home’s operations, “The A to Z, and everything in between: finances, capital components, staffing. He is going to track a five-year trend of our nursing home and every aspect of it. What direction do we take in building a new nursing home?”

Morse is long a supporter of the construction of a new nursing home. He claims that this will remedy the decades-old practice of placing county residents outside the state. He also suggests that it is due to poor management that the nursing home cost the county’s taxpayers more than $18 million in 2008. And this study will be the next firm step toward building a new home.

According to Albany Legislator Chris Higgins, who joined eight other legislators to vote against Morse’s resolution, this step was a poorly considered one.

“My first problem with the vote was that this was Rule 11 Resolution, which means that it never went through any substantive committee process to be vetted,” said Higgins. “And then, there was no background information provided for this consultant that was hired.”

This is true. According to Morse, he didn’t have time to prepare and provide a thorough background for the John Group prior to the vote.

“But this is my biggest beef with it: We have a county procurement policy in Albany to follow, and was that used here? No,” Higgins said. According to the Albany County Department of General Services Purchasing Division’s policy, hiring for professional services at costs exceeding $20,000 ought to go through a request for proposal process, or RFP. “We didn’t send out an RFP to see what other consulting firms in the state could come in and give us a lower bid.”

“It’s a $25,000 no-bid contract that is going out to a company that has not been vetted,” Higgins said. “It’s embarrassing that we aren’t even going to follow our own procurement policy.”

Morse countered that his resolution doesn’t go against the procurement policy. He said that he had asked Albany County Comptroller Mike Conners, himself the loudest proponent of a new nursing home, and was assured that the RFP process needn’t be followed because the county faces “an emergency situation.”

“Sometimes the process itself, not being perfect,” he said, “could delay our looking at the nursing home for six or seven months.”

Morse also pointed out that Monday night’s vote was only to authorize spending the $25,000. A contract still will be put together and put before the legislature again for final approval.