A jail medical company run by a state lawmaker who donated to Sheriff Vic Regalado’s campaign has been selected to provide inmate medical care at the Tulsa Jail pending approval from Tulsa County commissioners.
Commissioners are scheduled to vote Monday on a recommendation to enter into contract negotiations with Turn Key Health Clinic. Rep. Jon Echols, R-Oklahoma City, is one of the operators of the business. The contract is a lucrative one, paying the winning bidder as much as $5 million per year to provide and oversee doctors, nurses and other medical professionals who care for inmates in the jail.
As The Frontier first reported, Echols and two of his business partners at Turn Key each contributed $1,000 to Regalado’s campaign for sheriff in April.
Echols has acknowledged that he asked the Sheriff’s Office to change bid requirements so his company could bid on the contract. The change allowed companies with experience in jails housing at least 500 inmates to bid. Previously, companies had been required to have experience in jails with at least 1,000 inmates. (The Tulsa Jail’s population is about 1,700.)
Previously, companies had been required to have experience in jails with at least 1,000 inmates. (The Tulsa Jail’s population is about 1,700.)
The Sheriff’s Office sought requests for proposals earlier this year and received responses from Turn Key, Southwest Correctional Medical Group and Armor Correctional Care. Armor is the current medical provider at the jail but the company’s contract was terminated after continuing inmate deaths and serious inmate medical issues.
Turn Key’s base bid was $3.6 million for the remainder of the current budget year and $5.5 million for next year, county records show. Armor came in at $4.1 million for eight months left in the current fiscal year but did not submit a 12-month proposal. Southwest Correctional Medical Group submitted a 12-month bid for $6.65 million.
Tulsa County Purchasing Director Linda Dorrell said a selection committee took those bids and scored each one based on cost, staffing level, references, transition plans and other criteria. The companies with the top two scores were brought in for interviews and oral presentations, followed by weeks of follow-up questioning. The companies were then scored again, Dorrell said.
“He (Regalado) was not part of the selection process,” Dorrell said.
Sheriff’s Office spokeswoman Casey Roebuck did not return an email from The Frontier seeking comment on Turn Key’s selection.
Dorrell has said previously that she opposed making the change requested by Regalado’s office.
“I had to talk them into the 500,” she said. “They didn’t think there should be a requirement on the size of jail and I said, ‘You’ve got to have one.’ I wanted to leave it at 1,000.”
Turn Key holds contracts to provide jail medical care with about 25 jails in Oklahoma, Kansas and Arkansas.
The Sheriff’s Office took over the jail from a private operator in 2005 and contracted with Correctional Healthcare Companies Inc. to provide inmate medical care. After widespread problems in medical care at the jail, including the 2011 death of inmate Elliott Williams, the Sheriff’s Office switched contractors, signing with Armor in 2013.
Armor has also been at the center of controversy, both locally and nationally, over inmate deaths and allegations of poor medical care.
Echols told The Frontier in July that opening up the bidding process allows more companies to compete on a level playing field with large, out-of-state corporations that may deliver inferior service. Armor is based in Florida.
He said his conversations with sheriffs, including Regalado, are a normal course of business for any company seeking a jail medical contract and not related to campaign contributions from him or his partners or his status as a state lawmaker.