‘We could be exposed to legal action or litigation’: CFO on drug contract

Cornwall CFO Maureen Adams, seen here during a January 2015 budget meeting, says the corporation has opened itself up to possible legal action over a drug contract that was turned down by council Sept. 14, 2015. (Newswatch Group/File)

CORNWALL – The city may have set itself up for possible legal action after turning down a drug contract for Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge.

A half-dozen firms submitted proposals to provide prescription medication to the long term care facility on Montreal Road, which serves the city and the county.

The city doesn’t see any money from the contract as the transactions are done between the provider and the Ontario government (OHIP). But, as the service delivery provider, the city has to choose the company.

That came to a halt Monday night as a majority of councillors, the most vocal being Andre Rivette and Elaine MacDonald, were not happy the contract was going to an out-of-town firm.

The situation has left the city in a difficult position.

“At this point I’m not sure what we can do…we issued an RFP (request for proposal), they’re not satisfied with the recommendation we provided,” CFO Maureen Adams told Cornwall Newswatch Monday night.

Adams believes staff will have to come back with a report explaining why they made the recommendation and the risks associated with not awarding the contract.

“You know, if they (staff) think there’s (legal) exposure and what that exposure could be,” Adams said.

With all the bidders exposed, knowing who won the contract, and the fact some councillors are asking for illegal preferential treatment of the contract based on location, Adams concedes the corporation is in a legally precarious position.

“Absolutely! I suggest if we don’t correct what has happened tonight that we could be exposed to legal action or litigation. We are a public entity. We are subject to that public procurement process,” Adams said.

The CFO explained that if the same RFP comes back to council there needs to be a radical change to the proposal, but staff appear to be puzzled at what they could possibly change.

“As far as illegal action, I don’t think there’s illegal action. I think council has turned it down, period. Now, what you got to do is, if you want to come back to council to sole-source it (as a possible option). We didn’t award the contract to anybody last night so council has the right to turn it down, so there’s nothing to sue on because we haven’t done anything yet with it,” Coun. Andre Rivette told Cornwall Newswatch.

Rivette wants to see a more detailed analysis of the point system used to pick the best provider for the contract. “I want to see the point system. Let me know how you mark the system and how do you mark these (companies),” he said.

But Coun. David Murphy doesn’t agree. “There’s a process that needs to be followed and it was followed. They met the specifications (Classic Care Pharmacy), they were ranked the highest, and it’s not an outside firm that did the ranking, it was the Glen-Stor-Dun Lodge,” Murphy said. The councillor added that there are local ties as Jean Coutu does provide satellite services for Classic Care Pharmacy.

“At the end of the day, do I wish it was completely local firm? Of course I do, I always do. I try to shop local when I can, but there are rules in place for a reason…for these RFPs,” Murphy said.

“Our immediate concern is to maintain the service and will likely have to extend the contract with the existing provider until such time as we can select a new provider,” Shared Services Manager Myles Cassidy added.

The contract with Classic Care Pharmacy of Nepean has already been extended until the end of October, lodge administrator Norm Quenneville told council Monday night.

In an email to Cornwall Newswatch, Ministry of Municipal Affairs spokesman Conrad Spezowka referred questions to the City of Cornwall saying it’s up to the municipality to maintain policy regarding procurement of goods and services.

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