Guest Columns

HUDSON: FLIPPING THE LID ON PANDORA’S BOX

Judge grants Preliminary Injunction in case involving mental health services

The Colardo Statesman

Denver District Court Judge Hub Stern granted the Preliminary Injunction requested by Crisis Access on Friday, Feb. 28. His injunction prevents the Colorado Department of Human Services from proceeding with the re-bidding of its original solicitation for a vendor that would provide statewide emergency services to individuals experiencing an acute behavioral health crisis. This ruling allows Crisis Access to proceed to District Court for a hearing on the merits of its appeal requesting that DHS be directed to award these contracts as was its announced intention last October before it summarily canceled the procurement. The cancellation followed a review of the DHS procurement by the Department of Personnel and Administration for sufficiency by Reggie Bicha, executive director at DHS.

Judge Stern was scalding in his opinion of the review conducted by DPA, finding that “…the DPA staff members evaluating the solicitation and its procurement process were unqualified to fairly and properly evaluate the initial RFP…” In his findings based on evidence presented in court, he noted, “The public is served by having a State Procurement process and government that behaves openly, honestly, transparently, and with integrity. Thus, the public is not disserved by a Preliminary Injunction when, as here, there is clear evidence suggesting that the State has behaved otherwise in canceling the solicitation.” This finding presents a considerable hurdle for the state to clear on appeal. It seems likely that a full hearing, following subpoenaed testimony from the many employees who seemed to have their fingerprints inappropriately attached to the review process, will only strengthen Stern’s conclusion.

The primary rationale offered by the state for suspending and then canceling the procurement hinged on DPA investigators’ finding that the RFP failed to reflect the specific provisions of SB 10-266. Stern shot this theory down with, “The Court finds DPA’s determination that the RFP failed to adequately incorporate the Enabling Statute was clearly erroneous and, therefore, provides utterly no support for cancellation of the solicitation.” There is a slim chance the administration will duck and run by accepting the findings of the court and awarding the regional emergency contracts to Crisis Access. It’s more likely that they will continue to defend their actions in what could prove an act of institutional seppuku. First, of course, they will throw a few more state employees under the bus. Remain tuned!

Miller Hudson can be reached at mnhwriter@msn.com.