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Prison system accused of 'sunshine' violation

Gov. Charlie Crist has made it a priority to run the "most open and transparent" administration in state history. But a former adviser to Crist is suing the state, claiming the Department of Corrections broke the Sunshine Law by mishandling a contract to provide mental health services to inmates.

Kisebowtie Attorney Chris Kise of Foley & Lardner, who served as a counselor and climate change advisor to Crist, filed the suit in state court in Tallahassee Tuesday on behalf of MHM Correctional Services, a Virginia firm that pitched a proposal to provide mental health care in the agency's South Florida Region IV prisons. Kise's suit alleges that he obtained public records showing that agency staffers began "secret negotiations" with a competing vendor, Correctional Medical Services (CMS), almost two weeks before competing vendors learned that their proposals were rejected. Kise also said the deal the state negotiated with CMS would cost taxpayers $5.5-million more than MHM's proposal.

Corrections Secretary Walt McNeil said he was confident the agency would prevail. We are fully confident that we didn't do anything that would be a problem to the state," he said. "I think the facts will bear that out to be not true." By law, McNeil said, he can't discuss the details of a contract that is "still in the throes of procurement."

-- Steve Bousquet