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New Mexico: Cornell stonewalled on jail cost: lost contract.

Valencia Decides to Run Jail
By Jane Moorman
News-Bulletin Staff Writer
September 22, 2004

Valencia County commissioners have decided to take over operations of the adult jail on Jan. 1, terminating a contract with Cornell Corrections Inc.

Officials said they could save about $425,000 through the remainder of the fiscal year if they took over operation of the jail, which opened in 2000.

"The highest budget presently affecting the county is the adult detention facility operations contract with Cornell Corrections," County Manager Mike Trujillo said of the contract, budgeted to cost the county $3.3 million.

Representatives from Cornell asked the commission to table its decision until a meeting could be held to review operational costs and to discuss the financial liabilities the county would be assuming.

The commission had hired the accounting firm Henderson Black and Co. in January to analyze the jail's financial situation.

"They reviewed the profit-and-loss statements for the two fiscal years between July 2000 and June 2002," Trujillo said. "But the information provided by Cornell was not adequate to determine if the center was being operated efficiently."

The commission also published a request for proposals for managing the jail. Three companies responded, including Cornell, but the process was stopped when the committee's evaluation criteria proved to be flawed.

Pat Keohane, regional director for Cornell, said the company did not respond to the audit request because "when you are in competition for a contract through an RFP you have to be careful what you share."

Commission Chairman Gary Daves charged that Cornell had "stonewalled" the county regarding the financial information.

"Cornell lost its opportunity to communicate with us," Daves said. "We asked them if they would respond to our inquiries, and they wouldn't."

Joe Lang, attorney for Cornell, told commissioners: "Trying to save money by cutting corrections is scary for the public's safety."

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