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$20K More OK'd for Jail Audit

By Jeff Proctor
Copyright © 2010 Albuquerque Journal
Journal Staff Writer

          The county has authorized an additional $20,000 for the independent audit into whether it overpaid millions of dollars to a company that was providing medical services at the Metropolitan Detention Center.
        County officials have not answered questions about whether they are aware of any overpayments, or whether the county has asked Correctional Medical Services to repay any money.
        The Journal asked the county last week whether it had demanded any repayments from CMS and to make available under the Inspection of Public Records Act any letters seeking repayment.
        County officials said last week they were checking into it.
        On Wednesday, County Attorney Jeff Landers told the Journal in an e-mail that his office needed more time.
        "Because of a high volume of (open records) requests, we are unable to produce the documents that you have requested within three business days. We will respond to your request within 15 days as required by the statute."
        Asked whether that meant there were documents, Landers responded: "At this point, my office has not been provided with any documents. We have responded to the request and have asked folks to conduct a due and diligent search and forward any responsive documents to us for review."
        Meanwhile, auditors for the Rogoff Firm confirmed that they had met with a former county special projects coordinator, Carlos Villanueva, who says he uncovered nearly $3 million in overpayments to CMS after officials ordered him to review contracts at the jail.
        Villanueva says he was moved to the jail's mailroom and later fired after he showed his findings to top county officials.
        Ed Street, one of the Rogoff auditors, declined Wednesday to discuss details of what his firm has found so far, but said Villanueva provided numerous documents for the audit.
        "We do have the authority to investigate matters raised by Carlos ... and we are looking into concerns that he raised," Street said.
        Demesia Padilla, chairwoman of the county's Internal Audit Committee, said she approved additional money for the Rogoff auditors so they could get to the bottom of the questions raised by Villanueva.
        "We obviously want to get this wrapped up," she said.
        In addition to reviewing the CMS contract, Villanueva also audited the jail's contract with Canteen Corp., which provides food and laundry services at MDC. He says that he found overpayments to Canteen, as well and that the county retaliated against him when he pointed out the problems.
        After initially insisting there was no overpayment, the county later confirmed it did overpay Canteen by about $400,000 and said the company is making reimbursements. Officials also said they knew about the overpayment before Villanueva's report.
        After learning that the Journal planned to publish a story based on Villanueva's allegations, the county issued a scathing news release calling him a "disgruntled employee" who tried to "extort" jail officials and was fired for violating county policies.
        CMS official charged
        In addition to its work at the jail, Correctional Medical Services has provided a "customized healthcare program and on-site medical unit for each of the (New Mexico's 10) prison facilities," according to the company's website.
        PharmaCorr, CMS's pharmacy affiliate, "provides mail-order pharmacy services to the New Mexico prison system."
        CMS is named in more than 60 lawsuits in New Mexico, many of them in U.S. District Court in Albuquerque. The charges range from civil rights violations to medical negligence. Some have been dismissed due to lack of prosecution, according to court records.
        The Albuquerque-based regional medical director for CMS, Patrick Arnold, is facing federal Medicare and Medicaid fraud charges in Mississippi to the tune of nearly $40 million. Those charges stem from Arnold's involvement with a company other than CMS.
        Arnold's job with CMS involves recruiting, evaluating and hiring physicians, with the consent of the New Mexico Corrections Department's medical director, assigning doctors to the various prisons and monitoring their job performance, according to corrections spokeswoman Tia Bland.
        Arnold has not done work for CMS at the county jail.
        Bland said the Corrections Department was aware of the Mississippi allegations against Arnold, who she said has been placed on administrative leave by CMS. An interim director has been named.
        "The Corrections Department does not have any issue or concern with the way Dr. Arnold has performed his job for the New Mexico Corrections Department," Bland said in an e-mail to the Journal.
        CMS has lost the Bernalillo County jail contract. The County Commission chose another company in April.
        In response to a Journal request for the individual scoring sheets on the new contract, the County Attorney's Office said they had been destroyed.
        A summary of the scores provided to the Journal shows Correctional Healthcare Management narrowly edged out CMS for the two-year, $23 million contract.

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