Judge orders Scott admin to ‘cease and desist’ prison privatization biddingby Dara Kam | November 5th, 2011
A Tallahassee judge has ordered Gov. Rick Scott‘s administration to “cease and desist” the bidding process for a prison privatization plan she earlier ruled was unconstitional.
Tallahassee Circuit Judge Jackie Fulford late Friday night put the brakes on Department of Corrections officials’ attempt to bypass her earlier decision that the way lawmakers ordered the privatization of the 18-county region in the southern portion of the start violated the state constitution.
In her order, Fulford pointed out that corrections officials reneged on a pledge made Thursday not to move forward with the bidding before a Nov. 16 hearing. Later the same day, the department announced it was reopening the procurement and bids would be accepted after Nov. 10, Fulford wrote.
Fulford ruled on Sept. 30 that lawmakers should not have included the privatization plan in the must-pass state budget but instead should have ordered it in a stand-alone bill.
Scott opted not to appeal, but Attorney General Pam Bondi filed a last-minute appeal late Monday on behalf of state lawmakers, setting the stage for Friday’s court showdown.
In granting the emergency stay to the Florida Police Benevolent Association, Fulford wrote that “defendants are not likely to succeed on the merits on appeal.”
On Thursday, DOC officials announced they were again taking bids from vendors to take over 29 prisons and other correctional operations because the appeal, filed with the First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee, lifted the stay on her previous order. But they said they would not sign any contracts until the litigation was complete.
That prompted the PBA, the union that filed the original lawsuit on behalf of the state’s corrections and probation workers, to ask for an emergency hearing on Friday, where Fulford heard testimony from the PBA and assistant attorney general Jonathan Glogau.
Glogau argued that reopening the bids would not harm the 4,000 state employees now working at the 29 prisons and workcamps in the region.
“Nothing of any importance to their clients was going to happen between now and the 16th,” Glogau said. “How are they affected by opening the bids?”
But Jim Baiardi, the president of PBA’s chapter for correctional officers, testified that the new bidding process created a heightened state of anxiety for employees already worried about having to look for new jobs or move.
“The panic has begun again,” he said. “Officers are concerned again.”
- The News Service of Florida contributed to this report.