By CAROLINE BECK, Alabama Daily News
The Alabama Legislature’s Contract Review Committee met last week for its monthly examination of contracts sought by state agencies. The bi-cameral committee cannot cancel contracts, but can vote to delay them by as much as 45 days and draw public scrutiny on any questionable arrangements.
Several agencies and departments had contracts before the committee last week.
Department of Corrections
The Alabama Department of Corrections is increasing and extending its contract with Wexford Health Sources, Inc. which provides medical and mental health care to ADOC facilities.
The contract is for a little over $179 million and a one-year extension to keep Wexford Health Sources' services until Sept. 30, 2021.
ADOC Spokesperson Samantha Rose told Alabama Daily News that the modifications to the contract are due to needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and staffing requirements pursuant to the Braggs V. Dunn court order to increase mental health staffing.
The original contract with Wexford Health Sources was first entered into April 2018, Rose said. The total contract is $540.4 million.
Rose said of the $179 million, approximately $23 million is directly linked to increased costs associated with COVID-19 and the additional staffing required by the Braggs court order.
The Legislative Contract Review Committee also approved Thursday another ADOC contract with the The Moss Group to “provide assistance with implementation, planning, ongoing plan development, leadership development and assistance in establishing practices for male and female facilities.”
The $755,529 contract will last through Sept. 30, 2022.
The Moss Group is a criminal justice consulting firm based out of Washington D.C. A representative for the ADOC at Thursday’s contract review meeting said The Moss Group has been working with the ADOC since 2015 and that this new contract would be to begin their tactics statewide.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, voiced reservations to the contract, saying he doubted they were a sole source provider and that the state has already given the group a lot of money.
“It’s going to be good to see them gone because they’ve got millions of state dollars that we’ve spent on them in the last five years and doesn’t look like it’s going to end any time soon,” Orr said.
House of Representatives
The committee approved a $43,840 contract for the Alabama House of Representatives to implement a virtual voting console system.
This new system is needed in order to keep House members properly distanced in the chamber, which is not currently possible, because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The contract with International Roll-Call Corp. will allow House members to vote on legislation from the House gallery or other areas in the State House through an iPad given to each member, a representative from the House told committee members.
This new software is being funded through CARES Act funding.
Pardons and Paroles
The Pardons and Parole Board had two new contracts that were both approved by the committee.
One was for AltaPointe Health Systems Inc. and it is for $294,108 and would last through Oct. 31, 2022.
AltaPointe would be providing evidence based criminal thinking interventions, drug/alcohol outpatient treatment, mental health counseling and re-entry services to the Mobile day reporting center.
A representative from the Pardons and Parole Board said their services are designed to reduce recidivism and help probation officers and parolees have a better success rate.
AltaPointe already provides similar services to other day reporting centers in the state. The parole board representative said AltaPointe can provide licensed professional counselors, substance abuse treatment counselors, licensed social workers and licensed psychologists.
Sen. Arthur Orr, R-Decatur, asked why the parole board could not hire their own employees to fulfill the services AltaPointe would provide.
The parole board representative said it would cost more to hire the needed employees.
The second contract that was approved is for $34,500 and is for services from People Optimum Consulting.
The parole board representative said their services would provide training and a certification process for probation officers to identify, understand and respond to certain signs of mental illness and substance abuse.
The program would be completely funded through a federal grant awarded to the parole board in 2016 for the Alabama Certain Enforcement Supervision (ACES) program.
Attorney General’s Office/ Mulberry Fork Spill litigation
The Alabama Attorney General’s Office amended a legal contract with Industrial Economics, Inc. in the ongoing litigation over the Tyson Foods Inc. and Mulberry Fork spill in 2019 that caused one of the largest documented fish kills in the state’s history.
Thousands of fish are estimated to have been killed when the wastewater was released from the River Valley Ingredients chicken rendering plant in Hanceville.
The attorney general filed a lawsuit in May, saying Tyson was negligent "by causing a public nuisance.
A pipe failure at the Tyson plant caused over 200,000 gallons of “insufficiently-treated wastewater” to flow into the Mulberry Fork of the Black Warrior River, leading to the death of around 175,000 fish, the attorney general’s office said.
The contract is for $50,000 and a one year extension. The group would provide an expert to analyze the loss due to the spill and determine the economic impact on affected counties and expert testimony if needed.
Mike Lewis, a spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office, told ADN a hearing in Walker County Circuit Court on Oct. 13 will consider Tyson’s motions to dismiss the case and for change of venue, both of which the state opposes.
Medical Examiner’s Board
A legal contract for the Alabama Medical Examiners Board was not approved by the committee and delayed for 45 days.
The new contract was for $170,000 and it was to hire attorneys from Lightfoot Franklin & White LLC to conduct a study, analysis and legal update of the board’s processes and operations and provide legal counsel.
Sen. Tom Butler, R-Madison, questioned why the board would need outside counsel to tell them what needs to be fixed on their own board.
“It just doesn’t seem like it’s needed,” Butler said. “The board has been with us for literally decades and suddenly they need someone from the outside telling them what they’re supposed to be doing?”
A representative from the board said they didn’t know any specific problem the board needed analyzing and that the board simply wants to make sure it is conducting business the best way they can.
The contract review committee can’t kill proposed contracts, but can delay them.