Legal adviser: Livingston may have violated public bid laws

Livingston Parish government may have unintentionally violated the state’s public bid laws in renewing a contract for pharmacy services for the parish jail, the parish’s legal adviser said Thursday.

Councilman Jim Norred questioned the legality of the contract after learning Parish President Layton Ricks signed a renewal in December, five months after the renewal deadline passed.

The original contract, signed by previous Parish President Mike Grimmer, ran from Aug. 1, 2011, through July 31, 2012, with an option for a one-year extension, Norred said.

Norred said he was concerned about the time lapse, as well as the fact that the contract was not put out for bids, despite having been bid previously.

“I’m not trying to point any fingers here, but I also don’t want to be hit by the legislative auditor,” Norred said.

Parish legal adviser Christopher Moody said both the company and the parish continued to perform under the contract during its lapse, creating a tacit renewal.

“That would certainly be enough in a private case,” Moody said. “But the bid laws are so strict. I really think you ought to consider canceling the current contract and going out for bid.”

Moody said it is unfortunate that the market prices may be higher now, but rebidding the contract would be the safest way to avoid trouble with the Louisiana Legislative Auditor’s Office.

Pressed as to whether the parish in fact violated the state’s public bid laws, Moody said, “It’s a close question. Under a very strict interpretation, yes, I think we violated unintentionally.”

Moody noted that the contractor could choose to sue the parish for voiding the contract after its renewal, but said he believes that is unlikely.

It is more likely the company will continue to provide its services until the parish rebids the contract because the company is making money, he said.

Councilman Ricky Goff pointed out that if the contract had been renewed on time, the one-year extension would have expired July 31 anyway.

“I think we should feel comfortable that our obligation to that company is met,” Goff said.