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Probation service company declines contract extension

COVINGTON -- The probation services provider to the city of Covington has declined a one-year extension of its contract.

Athens attorney Russell Edwards, on behalf of East Georgia Correctional Services LLC, sent Interim Municipal Court Judge Ben Hendricks a letter Monday stating, "We appreciate your offer of a new one-year contract and believe it serves as testament to the excellent service East Georgia has provided to the citizens of the City of Covington for the past seven years. Unfortunately, the City of Covington's Solicitor no longer refers enough cases to probation for East Georgia to serve Covington effectively."

The letter goes on to say East Georgia will deliver its files to the city prior to the contract's expiration of March 31 and, "We wish you and the other members of the judiciary in Covington the best of luck in striving to restore the citizens' faith in their judicial system."

A majority of the City Council agreed March 5 to reject all bids received for probation services and renew East Georgia's contract for one year. Some council members said they were concerned about the transition to a new Municipal Court judge and probation services company at one time. The council did not reappoint former Municipal Court Judge David Strickland and is in the process of seeking qualifications for a new judge.

The council's decision to extend the contract also came following a plea from a former employee of East Georgia Correctional, Jennifer Hammond, who alleged that the company was not given equal opportunity to bid on the new contract.

East Georgia did not submit a bid. Hammond alleged this was due to language specifying that a new provider would meet with the previous provider, and that this implied the city planned on definitely hiring a new provider. City officials have denied this, saying it is standard language.

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."

City Attorney Ed Crudup said the city could move ahead and approve the contract with best bidder Judicial Alternatives of Georgia.

Since all proposals have been evaluated, "no further action needs to be taken unless the best bidder withdraws," in which case, the next best bidder would be accepted, Crudup said.