$300 million to corrupt firm? Auditor Jim Zeigler says no

[Photo Credit: ALToday.com]

Alabama is no stranger to political corruption charges. The state has seen elected officials at every level of government charged and found guilty of crimes. In what some perceive as a tone-deaf move, the state is moving forward to contract with Wexford Health Sources — a company that has found itself in the middle of a bribery case in neighboring Mississippi. 

Wexford has been named in a suit brought forth by the Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood to recoup funds and damages related to bribery charges that sent the former Mississippi Corrections Commissioner, Chris Epps, to jail for 20 years.

And now, the Alabama Department of Corrections (ADOC) will bring a contract — for prison medical and mental health services — with Wexford to the to the legislature’s Contracts Review Committee on March 1 for approval.

The contract, effective April 1, 2018 states Wexford “will provide comprehensive healthcare including both medical and mental health care and management services to State inmates in accordance to applicable laws” through Sept. 30, 2020 for a sum of $360,471,062.

[Copy of DOC-Wexford contract]

Alabama Today reached out to Bob Horton, Public Information Manager at the State Department of Corrections, for comment on Monday, regarding the contract but has yet to hear back from him.

But according to the Associated Press, Horton claims Wexford had not been accused of any wrongdoing when the state decided to sign a contract with them.

“When the pick was made that ‘Wexford Health has not been accused of any wronging and the department is confident the review committee selected the right company for the health care contract,” Horton told the AP.

On Tuesday, State Auditor Jim Zeigler requested the committee order “the maximum delay allowed by law” on the proposed contract.

Zeigler says considering the fact Alabama is under federal court order to improve poor prison conditions for inmates, it would irresponsible to enter into a contract with the company without knowing the court’s final decision in the case.

“The State of Alabama has been found liable in a federal lawsuit concerning prison mental health,” Zeigler said in a statement. “We are now awaiting the court’s final decision on the remedies to be required. To enter into the proposed contract now without knowing what the federal court will require is irresponsible.”

Zeigler continued, “If this committee orders the maximum delay allowed by law, it will give me time to reason with the Department of Corrections to wait to see what steps will be ordered by the court in this matter. Allowing this contract to go forward without knowing what the court will require is simply premature.”

Wexford complaint in Mississippi: