The Department of Corrections will continue to work with an attorney who some legislators have criticized for potential conflicts of interest over a prison health contract.
Members of the Contract Review Committee Thursday approved three legal contracts between the Alabama Department of Corrections and William R. Lunsford of Butler Snow, LLP, totaling roughly $7.68 million.
“They are new contracts, but they are not new contracts,” said Andi Spears, an attorney with the Department of Corrections. “These contracts were previously approved by this body. However, the attorney changes firms, so they are the same contracts, same litigation, same scope, but with Butler Snow no longer there.”
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Corrections had to bring the contracts back to the committee after Lunsford changed firms.
One contract, worth up to $3.2 million over two years, is to represent personnel in the Braggs case in which inmates filed a suit alleging discrimination because the department ignored the medical and mental health needs of people with disabilities. Corrections justified the contract by claiming that Lunsford has “unique” insight that is needed to properly represent its employees in the case that is closely related to litigation that Corrections is facing.
The second contract is for two years for $480,000. Lunsford will represent the department in the U.S. Department of Justice’s lawsuit against DOC alleging conditions in Alabama prisons violate inmates’ Eighth Amendment protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Corrections is contracting with Lunsford because the case overlaps with other matters and wants to ensure a consistent defense.
The final contract is for two years, totaling $4 million. The contract is to represent Corrections staff in Duke vs. Dunn, another case in which inmates filed suit alleging the department violated their constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment. Corrections justified the contract because of Lunsford knowledge of Corrections and expertise on the issue.
In February, members of the committee expressed concerns about Corrections awarding a prison health care contract worth $1 billion to YesCare Corp., a prison health care company headquartered in Brentwood, Tennessee. YesCare won the initial bid, but after Corrections learned that one of the vendors who submitted a bid contacted someone outside of the evaluation committee who knew information about the request for proposal, a second round took place.
Rep. Chris England, D-Tuscaloosa, had concerns that Lunsford served on an advisory committee for YesCare.
Lunsford, it was learned, is one of the attorneys representing the state in several lawsuits. The contract was held briefly after several lawmakers expressed concerns about the size of the contract and lawsuits that YesCare was involved with in other states, though it was later awarded.
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