Unicoi County facing possible legal action over MedicOne contract

Sue Guinn Legg • Jan 3, 2019 at 11:38 PM

ERWIN — Unicoi County resident Johnny Day has vowed to take legal action if necessary to stop finalization of county’s pending contract with MedicOne Medical Response in order to allow time for county commissioners to examine contract bidding procedures he said “did not get the job done.”

During a Thursday afternoon meeting between Unicoi County Mayor Garland “Bubba” Evely, Day and a small group of county residents concerned with MedicOne’s “past poor performance” and how the county’s request for bids on the contract was handled, Day told Evely he could have a temporary restraining order to stop the contract’s signing by Friday.

Day said although the county’s request for contract proposals met the legal requirement for a newspaper advertisement for bids, the advertisement was limited to one day of publication in the Johnson City Press.

He said two ambulance companies that specifically asked for the county’s request for contract proposals and a list of numerous reputable companies doing business in Tennessee that he provided to the county’s former Ambulance Committee chairman did not receive the request for bids.

Instead, Day said the request for proposals was sent to companies that had previously informed the county they do not do business in Tennessee, to an ambulance company representative who was no longer employed by that company and to another company that was not given adequate contact information to submit a bid.

“In essence this was a completely ineffective bid process. It was very poor,” Day said. “Then we are told, MedicOne was the only one to submit a bid.”

“Although you did what laws require, laws are not sufficient to get the job done. Mister mayor this does not get the job done in this county. We pay your salary. We pay everyone’s salary. We deserve better. We need better.

And in a reference to the November 2014 death of Dwight Bennett, a Unicoi County school board member and former county commissioner who died from cardiac arrest at his home during an approximately 40-minute wait for a MedicOne ambulance, Day said, “We can’t afford to let to let people down, like my friend who died on a sidewalk.

“We need better, mister mayor, and we’re are asking you, we are pleading with you, to put this back out to bid. We have three companies that want to bid. We are asking you ‘don’t sign this contract.’ ”

Evely suggested the group present their concerns to the Ambulance Committee at its next meeting on Jan. 10 and to the full commission at its next meeting in late January. “If you want to bring this to them, I invite you,” he said.

Evely said while he had delayed sending the final contract document to MedicOne while Day’s request for information on the bid process was pending, the contract was approved by the commission on Dec. 17 and he would not veto the commission’s approval of the contract as Day requested.

And in response to the group’s request that he delay mailing the contract to MedicOne until after the Jan. 10 committee meeting, Evely said he was unsure if he or the committee’s new chairman, Commissioner John Mosley, had that authority.

Day responded, “I’m asking why anyone would fight that hard not to rebid it. If they still want to sign this before that Jan. 10 meeting, I can walk upstairs (to Chancery Court) and file a motion for a temporary injunction . . . and have it tomorrow.

“For God’s sake, let’s all be reasonable,” Day said. “I know we have a reasonable mayor and I think we have reasonable commissioners. I don’t want to walk upstairs and start a lawsuit but I can if I have to.”

Day said after the meeting he would “hold off” on his request for the temporary injunction “to see what happens” in response to Thursday’s meeting and consider the motion for injunction again on Friday.