Is turning in a proposal 16 minutes late really relevant?
That’s what Kaleida Health is asking a judge to decide, after filing a lawsuit against Buffalo Public Schools for disqualifying its bid for the district’s multimillion nursing contract, because the proposal was hand-delivered 16 minutes after the deadline.
Kaleida – which previously held the contract for 13 years – wants the court to order the school district to void the new deal, reopen the bidding process and consider Kaleida’s proposal on its merits.
A court appearance is scheduled for Oct. 24 in State Supreme Court.
Kaleida, the region’s largest health care provider, argues in court papers that the 16 minutes were “not material,” particularly because an electronic version of the bid was sent to the district prior to the 11 a.m. deadline on Jan. 4.
“Despite opening and considering the proposal, the district made the arbitrary and capricious determination to reject it, wrongly determining that the 16-minute delay was material and non-waivable,” Kaleida argues.
The district did, in fact, accept a late proposal from another bidder after determining their hand delivery was delayed due to poor weather, Kaleida’s attorneys also said in court documents.
The school district, meanwhile, maintains Kaleida is familiar with the bidding process and should have known the district does not accept electronic proposals.
The district also pointed out that two other bids were late and disqualified.
“Certainly the district is confident in its decision and that it was based on the law and consistent and clear district policy,” said Nathaniel J. Kuzma, general counsel for the Buffalo schools. “It looks forward to presenting its position to the judge in October.”
The issue came to a head in May, when word spread that Kaleida, one of 13 to submit a proposal, had been disqualified from the bidding process. Kaleida officials, its nurses and parents – concerned about losing beloved school nurses – mobilized and put pressure on the School Board to reconsider, but the board ultimately contracted with two staffing agencies for a little more than $6 million in the first year.
Supplemental Health Care is providing 74 school nurses, while Sunbelt Staffing is providing three higher-level nurse practitioners, according to district officials. The new nurses have begun to settle in at their schools and introduce themselves to parents and kids, officials added.
The controversy did have further ripple effects, as then-School Board member Catherine Flanagan-Priore, a Kaleida employee, abruptly resigned in protest over the school district’s handling of the new nursing contract and what she described as a lack of transparency.