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Monroe Ambulance Sues Rochester City Council Over Contract Issue

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- Monroe Ambulance has filed an Article 78 Petition against the City of Rochester, City Council and Rural/Metro Medical Services claiming irregularities and illegalities in the process that resulted in the city council's decision to award an ambulance contract to Rural/Metro Medical Services (RMMS) instead of Monroe.

The petition alleges that the council compromised the integrity of the city's Request-for-Proposal (RFP) process, held secret discussions and succumbed to pressure from political contributors, union members and lobbyists.

City council members have said the suit is baseless and one called it an attempt to blackmail the council.

The city has used Rural/Metro and its predecessor since the early 1980s. This year, after a panel of experts reviewed two competing proposals, the mayor recommended Monroe Ambulance, citing faster response times, new vehicles and a new communications system. But for the first time in recent memory, the city council did not support the mayor's recommendation for an ambulance company.

Monroe Ambulance claims its competitor lobbied council members and made political contributions totaling more than $100,000 while the contracts were under consideration. Several council members were less concerned about public safety than about losing a union's support, according to the 98-page petition.

Councilmember Adam McFadden said he met with representatives of Rural/ Metro and would have met with Monroe Ambulance as well, if they had requested a meeting. McFadden acknowledged Thursday that he was not swayed by any of the information he received, however.

"I was supporting Rural/Metro because my wife received services and they saved my wife's life," McFadden said. "If an entity saved your wife's life, who would you support?"

McFadden accused Monroe Ambulance of trying to blackmail the council by threatening to sue if it lost the contract.

City Council President Gladys Santiago, who is also named in the petition, said, "The city will vigorously defend its position that we acted properly and legally." She declined to comment further while the suit is pending.

Other council members named in the suit, including Lovely Warren and Dana Miller, did not return calls for comment by press time.

Rural/Metro and Monroe Ambulance were the only companies that responded the city's Request for Proposals.

"Given that the Council believes that there is no substantial difference between the proposals of the two companies, other factors were considered in the final decision," Finance Committee Chairman Dana K. Miller wrote in the letter of transmittal to the council in November.

Miller noted that RMMS has held the city contract since 1988 and "has generally provided excellent service. They are a known quantity and the continuation of their service would provide a seamless transition. "RMMS is CAAS accredited, while Monroe is seeking accreditation. Miller also wrote that the RMMS workforce is more diverse, includes more city residents, has a union and is more "well-versed in the nuances of ambulance service in Rochester."

Because the city's deputy corporate counsel was on the expert panel that selected Monroe Ambulance, the city must retain outside counsel to represent the council, a cost to taxpayers that Mayor Duffy said he had hoped to save.

"This Administration sought to find a compromise to head off this action, which was the main reason that I vetoed the legislation," the mayor said in a statement issued Thursday. "Now the lawsuit will make this a matter for the court to decide."

Mayor Duffy said he will continue to work "with City Council in a spirit of cooperation ... to make Rochester the best mid-sized city in America." Duffy said he is confident that "our judicial system will weigh the arguments of the parties involved and with due diligence render a decision that is in the best interests of the residents of the city of Rochester."

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