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Judge sides with prison system in bid battle

A state hearing officer has ruled in favor of the Department of Corrections in a controversy involving an $80-million contract to provide mental health to South Florida inmates. Administrative Law Judge Suzanne Hood's 39-page decision concluded that the losing bidder, MHM Correctional Services, failed to prove that the prison system violated the law in awarding a five-year-contract to a rival, Correctional Medical Services.

The decision was a setback to MHM and its legal team at Foley & Lardner, led by Chris Kise, a former legal advisor to Gov. Charlie Crist. "I am saddened, as costs will go up and quality of care will go down, but not entirely surprised by the order as the judge does not appear to get it," Kise said in an e-mail message to The News Service of Florida.

Kise's administrative challenge included explosive allegations that prison officials negotiated in secret with CMS in violation of the public records laws that his ex-boss, Crist, has championed as governor.

"MHM has not met its burden of persuasion in this case," Judge Hood wrote. In addition, she concluded, MHM failed to prove that its proposal met the state's criteria for financial viability (The prison system had rejected MHM's proposal on financial grounds).

-- Steve Bousquet