Correction officers will take furloughs

The newly appointed director of the Department of Corrections told the Board of Examiners on Tuesday he believes his officers can take the same furloughs other state workers are taking without endangering themselves or the inmates.

Director Greg Cox told the board that, as a result, he won't need the near-$1 million infusion of cash to pay for exempting staff from furloughs through the end of March.

Cox said that, effective in February, his staff will take the day-a-month unpaid furloughs.

He said that will cut the $938,069 in contingency funding to cover those costs through February and March to one-third that amount to cover exemptions this month.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, chairing his first board meeting, asked about the concerns for inmate and correctional staff safety that were raised by former director Howard Skolnik. Cox told him the department operated safely with furloughs for four months.

"We will continue to manage our operation in a safe and secure manner," he said.

He said the decision to include correctional workers in the furloughs will cause some overtime but that will be $30,000-$40,000 - far less than the cost of exempting all correctional officers from furloughs.

The issue of furloughs was a sore point for many state workers who objected to

correctional staff escaping the 4.6 percent pay cut those days off create.

"They're going to go down below minimal staffing," said Gene Columbus of the correctional officers association. "They're not going have the staff to respond to anything."

He said the result will be officers and inmates at risk in Nevada's prisons.

"That's a heck of a gamble."

In addition, the board approved a five-year, $176.9 million contract with HP Enterprise Services to take over and operate the state's Medicaid Management Information System. That system manages all of Nevada's Medicaid data and pays the bills for Medicaid recipients.

Secretary of State Ross Miller said ACS, the unsuccessful bidder for that contract, had raised a series of questions over whether Medicaid officials changed the scope of the contract in negotiations with HP Enterprise Services and asked that the bid process be reopened.

Health and Human Services Director Mike Willden said his department went through a year-long process to develop the contract and that his lawyers as well as the Purchasing Division agreed he had done everything properly. He said it took much longer than anticipated and involved a series of changes to the proposed contract because of changes imposed by the federal government.

"The Medicaid landscape changes often, particularly in healthcare reform," he told the board.

Sandoval pointed out that ACS didn't go through the process of formally appealing the contract award so he believes the board shouldn't reopen the bidding process.

"The unsuccessful bidder chose not to exercise those appellate rights," he said.

Josh Hicks, representing ACS, said the company didn't formally appeal because of the bonding requirements that would have cost the company $245,000 it wouldn't get back.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said when the issues were raised by ACS, she had her staff examine the contract and the process and saw nothing wrong in how the process was conducted.

The vote to approve the contract was unanimous by the three members of the board.


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