City rejects probation bids

COVINGTON -- The Covington City Council rejected Monday night all bids it received for a new probation services provider and instead opted to stay with the current provider.

The council was split 3 to 2 on the motion by Keith Dalton to renew the contract with East Georgia Correctional Services for another year. Councilmen Mike Whatley and Chris Smith were in favor with Councilwomen Janet Goodman and Hawnethia Williams opposed. Councilwoman Ocie Franklin was absent.

East Georgia did not submit a bid for the new contract. Goodman said it's unfair to the companies that bid not to honor the Request for Proposals process.

"They did not bother to make a bid so I don't know why we are going backwards," Goodman said. "We have to be fair to everybody, and fair is doing what we say we're going to do."

Jennifer Hartman, a former employee of the company, told the council in late February that she and her boss believed East Georgia was excluded from bidding based on language in the RFP that stated that the new probation services provider will meet with the former company. Hartman claimed former Municipal Court Judge David Strickland retaliated against employees with the company. Strickland was romantically involved with an employee there who was fired. She later pleaded guilty to stealing from the company.

The council did not reappoint Strickland and is in the process of seeking proposals for a new municipal court judge.

The council delayed approving a new provider until City Attorney Ed Crudup could review the RFP. Crudup issued a written opinion that "the RFP was clear, very thorough, free of significant error and contained no provision ... that could reasonably be determined as designed to or having the effect of chilling the bidding by qualified prospective bidders."

A motion by Goodman to accept the recommended company, Judicial Alternatives of Georgia, failed earlier in the meeting by a vote of 3 to 2.

Smith said he had spoken with the interim municipal judge, Ben Hendricks, and that he indicated it would be difficult to make a transition to a new judge and new probation services company at one time. Smith said Hendricks had no complaints about the current provider.