A federal judge refused Thursday to suspend a ruling he issued in May that requires city leaders to foot the bill for an $83 million contract Sheriff Marlin Gusman awarded to an outside company to provide health care services to inmates at Orleans Parish Prison.
Mayor Mitch Landrieu’s administration, which claims Gusman illegally brokered the five-year contract without sufficient input from the city, asked U.S. District Judge Lance Africk to stay his ruling while the city awaits an opinion from the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
Africk refused, calling the city’s request “a misguided, duplicative attempt” to have the court terminate Gusman’s deal with Correct Care Solutions.
“Practically speaking, the city does not merely want a stay of the court’s order and reasons,” Africk wrote. “Rather, it wants a stay of its duty to fund medical and mental health care at OPP.”
The Landrieu administration, which under state law must pay for the care of inmates, accused Gusman of overstepping his legal authority in making the deal with the Nashville, Tennessee-based company.
“Very simply, the sheriff does not have the authority to enter into contracts on behalf of the city,” City Attorney Sharonda Williams wrote in a court filing.
Africk, who is overseeing a sweeping plan to reform the jail, refused to nullify the CCS contract in May, saying the deal represented the only concrete proposal for improving medical conditions for OPP inmates. “Moving forward, not backward, is the only path acceptable to the court,” the judge said at the time.
City leaders have been trying to renegotiate the contract with CCS but, in a court filing this month, complained that Africk’s refusal to overturn the contract “removes any incentive CCS has to negotiate in good faith with the city because CCS will not accept terms more favorable to the city when it knows the city is forced to pay the current terms.”
The contract, awarded last year, calls for the company to be paid $15.4 million in the first year and $17.3 million a year by the fifth year, an amount the Landrieu administration has called excessive.
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