Eric Schneiderman for Attorney General

Jail medical provider to pay fine in deal with AG

October 5, 2016

As published by Newsday on October 4, 2016.

The Nassau jail’s medical provider will pay a $350,000 fine and can’t bid on New York contracts for three years under a legal settlement with the state’s top law enforcement official that follows a series of inmate deaths.

New York State Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman had alleged Armor Correctional Health Services repeatedly denied inmates adequate care — including medication, mental health services and hospital treatment — and ripped off taxpayers by continuing to collect millions in public money.

Schneiderman’s July lawsuit also said county officials didn’t enforce terms of the Florida-based, for-profit vendor’s contract despite the company’s “serial failings,” by never imposing financial penalties for performance lapses.

The civil action came after the state Commission of Corrections found Armor provided deficient care in connection with the deaths of five Nassau inmates since the company first won a county contract in mid-2011. The families of four of those inmates are suing Armor and the county in federal court.

The state commission is investigating the six inmate deaths this year — several of which Schneiderman’s lawsuit noted “raise serious concerns” about Armor’s care.

The settlement, filed Tuesday in State Supreme Court in Manhattan, said Armor is not admitting “any wrongdoing or liability of any kind.”

County legislature Minority party Leader Kevan Abrahams (D-Freeport) said Tuesday that Schneiderman’s settlement “vindicates the people of Nassau County who truly believe Armor has been a detriment to the county.”

County Executive Edward Mangano thanked Schneiderman Tuesday for “his efforts in settling this matter as we move forward in contracting with a subsequent inmate health care provider.”

Armor issued a comment saying it was pleased to have the lawsuit resolved “to focus on and expedite a smooth transition with the new medical provider in Nassau County.” It said that throughout Schneiderman’s inquiry, Armor gave his office “clinical data that clearly supported the enhancement of patient care.”

The company added it had “made a business decision” to not try and renew its New York contracts, and was proud of employees’ “dedication and passion … under challenging circumstances.”

Armor must pay the $350,000 fine within 10 days, and $250,000 will go to Nassau County as reimbursement related to the company’s performance, according to court records.

Schneiderman released a statement Tuesday saying the settlement “sends a clear message that companies who fail to provide the required health services to inmates won’t be tolerated in New York State.” He added he was pleased the lawsuit “forced changes to the monitoring of Armor’s contract, while ultimately ensuring that the company would not renew its contract with Nassau County.”

Schneiderman initially had sought an order banning Armor from bidding on any New York contracts, appointment of a monitor to oversee Armor, financial penalties and a judgment saying the company illegally took public funds.

His office noted Tuesday that some of his concerns were addressed before the settlement. That included Armor’s August announcement that it wouldn’t bid to renew its contract — which ends in May — after Nassau put out a request for proposals in March for a new jail medical contract.

Schneiderman’s office also cited the county’s recent hiring of a health monitor to oversee Armor — a proposal Mangano sent to the legislature after the lawsuit. It also noted the county stopped making payments to Armor until it provided monthly statistics documenting its performance.

After the lawsuit, Nassau Comptroller George Maragos withheld Armor’s July and August payments — totaling roughly $2 million — until the company provided that data.

Maragos, who last week said he planned to run for Mangano’s job, said Tuesday the Sheriff’s Office “must learn from the Armor experience” and “institute closer oversight” of whatever vendor takes over.

Armor had threatened to pull its operation out of the jail by no later than Friday if the county didn’t make the July and August payments by Sept. 9. Maragos authorized payment of all those funds by Sept. 26 — while deducting about $167,000 for performance penalties.

Last week, Armor again threatened to leave as soon as Friday if the county didn’t meet an ultimatum including paying the company more, indemnifying it against any future malpractice claims and not speaking about Armor “in the media.”

But Mangano officials said they wouldn’t amend Armor’s contract. They also said they would start contract negotiations with a for-profit Tennessee-based company to potentially take over. A selection committee recommended the company after the county got three bids for a new jail contract.

Sheriff Michael Sposato, a Mangano appointee who repeatedly defended Armor after inmate deaths, has said he doesn’t have a backup plan for meeting inmate health needs if Armor walks out early.

Mangano’s administration wants to hire a new jail vendor by the start of 2017, and is hoping Armor sticks around for the transition.