Wednesday, May 1, 2002
Court Collections Contract Held Up Pending Review by County Auditors
By ROBERT GREENE, Staff Writer
A contract that could represent hundreds of millions of dollars in commissions for a collection agency to recoup delinquent Los Angeles Superior Court fines and fees was put on hold yesterday to allow county auditors to review the bidding process.
Court and county officials hoped to get board sign-off of a three-year agreement with Texas-based GC Services Limited Partnership to replace a less comprehensive GC contract that expired yesterday. But disappointed bidder Linebarger Goggan Blair Pena & Sampson—a Dallas law firm—persuaded the board to extend the current contract for two months while its protests are being investigated.
Linebarger partner Michael Deeds said the county bid documents included requirement of site visits, but none were made.
“Site visits are critical,” Deeds said. “You need to see the facilities as well as the hardware and software. You have to know how a bidder has performed on other contracts.”
Supervisors appeared concerned that the bidders’ track records in collecting fees were not considered in the contract process.
“To me performance should include success,” Supervisor Yvonne Burke said. “I don’t know what performance means if it doesn’t mean how much you’re getting for the people you’re working for.”
Experience was deemed a factor in awarding the contract, but prior performance was not.
County Chief Administrative Officer David Janssen defended the bidding process, saying there was no easy way to track prior performance given the wide variety of collections contracts.
GC was the lowest responsive bidder, with a commission rate of 15.7 percent of total gross collections.
A lot is riding on the contract, which would unify collection services for the Superior Court. Before court unification, some municipal courts did their own collections, some used the state Franchise Tax Board, some used private vendors and some had no extraordinary collection efforts.
The new deal would give one vendor responsibility over all delinquent fines and fees, including failure-to-appear penalties for traffic and criminal matters, unpaid traffic citations, and recovery of attorney fees.
Linebarger representatives put the value of the contract at $600 million.
Hal Dash, president of lobbying firm Cerrell Associates Inc., was on hand to represent GC. Harvey Englander of MWW Group is representing Linebarger.
The county is responsible for collecting fees owed to the court.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company