LOS ANGELES (October 14, 2013)⎯For the second time, Los Angeles County officials have been ordered to pay legal fees to AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF)—this, time in a preliminary amount over $200,000—after the Superior Court of the State of California, in two separate cases, found that the County twice violated the law in awarding ‘’no-bid’ contracts to a favored County vendor without following proper legal procedures on competitive bidding. Each time after the County illegally awarded the $75 million contract to Ramsell Public Health Rx, LLC, a private company that provides pharmacy benefits management services, for it to manage the County’s Healthy Way HIV Contract, AHF sued to overturn County officials’ illegal actions and each time, AHF prevailed. In May, the Court ordered Los Angeles County to pay over $150,000 in similar legal fees to AHF in the first lawsuit.
“This is yet another egregious example of how Los Angeles County officials mismanage taxpayer money: they have now twice illegally awarded multi-million dollar contracts to favored vendors, were swiftly held accountable in court, and now, for a second time, have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in legal fees for their repeated law-breaking activity,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “County officials have squandered the public trust and continue to squander taxpayers’ money by having to pay legal fees in cases that would never have been brought if the County simply had followed the law.”
In the two separate, but related legal actions brought by AHF, the Superior Court of California found that the County violated the law by twice illegally awarding a $75 million contract to Ramsell Public Health Rx, LLC, to provide pharmacy benefits management services. And in what should have been a red flag for good government watchdogs within the County government, the first contract was pushed through for Board approval in just one day. In a June 2012 ruling granting AHF’s request for a Peremptory Writ to block implementation of the first illegal contract, Ann I. Jones, Judge of the Superior Court, wrote that Los Angeles County “…abused its discretion in awarding the contract to Ramsell without competitive bidding or a competitive negotiation.”
Despite the first legal ruling against them, County officials again sought to award its PBM contract to Ramsell (the Ramsell II contract), and AHF again sued. Once again—almost a year to the date of its earlier court loss, on June 5, 2013—the Court issued a Writ invalidating the Ramsell II contract, finding that the County had again abused its discretion when issuing the sole source Ramsell II contract.
After each ruling, AHF successfully petitioned the Court for attorneys’ fees from the County. The reason AHF was awarded fees is because, in exposing and eliminating the County’s ongoing illegal contracting practices , AHF enforced an “important public right affecting public interest” and reinforced or conferred a “significant benefit to the public.” In the first case, the Court ordered the County to pay $157,688.50 to AHF in a May 2013 ruling; in the second case [case # BS138053], AHF was preliminarily awarded $203,613.49.
Despite issuing an RFP related to these services on March 28, 2013, the County has yet to award the contract to any party.