When California corrections officials found what they described as alarming defects in half of the GPS monitors worn by sex offenders and other parolees statewide, they moved immediately to break the contract with the company that supplied them.
A Sacramento judge said their concerns justified refusing to give the company more work, but he also ruled the state should not have given its existing work to a firm without competitive bidding.
Judge Timothy Frawley's decision upheld California's decision to reject the low bid from a division of 3M Co. for a statewide parole monitoring contract worth $51 million. But Frawley said GPS program director Denise Milano failed to show 3M's equipment already in use created a public emergency.
Heavily censored court records show Milano in April 2012 claimed failures in 3M's electronic monitoring equipment created a "public safety emergency." She said that justified amending the state contract with another vendor, Houston-based STOP, to supply ankle bracelets and monitoring systems for all of California, instead of just the state's six most-southern counties.
In that justification, Milano said 3M's own contract was expiring, but could not be extended because 3M's equipment failed field tests by the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation. Milano said "public safety is placed at substantial risk." [See Sunday's story in the LA Times]
Elsewhere, Milano cited gaps in 3M's tracking of offenders, problems with the batteries and cases of its ankle monitors, and an "at rest" mode designed to shut down tracking when sensors detected no movement.
Frawley said Milano's justification "falls well short of an emergency," and STOP's contract expansion was illegal. Frawley said that opens the door for the state to recover the money it paid STOP. State controller records show STOP was paid $3.5 million through August, when the competitively bid contract took effect. About half of that payment would have been for the illegally expanded work.
Corrections spokesman Jeffrey Callison said the department has discussed whether to seek recovery of that money with the attorney general's office, "but a decision has not been made at this time."