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Rochester City Council Breaks with Mayor on Ambulance Service

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — For the first time in more than 20 years, the Rochester City Council has announced it will not support the mayor s recommendation for an ambulance company.

The company is threatening to sue if it loses the contract, and Mayor Robert J. Duffy said the decision could forever taint the integrity of the [request for proposal] process.

The city has used one ambulance company, Rural/Metro Medical Service (RMMS) and its predecessor, since the early 1980s. After a panel of experts reviewed two competing proposals earlier this year, the mayor recommended Monroe Ambulance, citing faster response times (by one minute), new vehicles and a new communications system.

The city council, however, authorized Duffy to hire Rural/Metro on Nov. 21. The mayor now has 30 days to decide whether he will veto the legislation.

Sharon Stiller, an attorney for Monroe Ambulance, wrote that the council s decision flies in the face of all council precedent over the years, as well as reeking of secrecy, in a letter notifying potential witnesses to the lawsuit.

Stiller said Friday the council unfairly considered factors not contained in the RFP. The council made its decision without public discussion and without giving her client an opportunity to respond factors, Stiller said.

A city council official said Friday both companies had opportunities to respond to all council questions.

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.

Miller said RMMS has held the city contract since 1988 and 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, while Monroe has more experience in suburban and rural areas.

Two days before the council vote, the mayor sent a letter to Miller and the city council president, urging them to act based on the safety and well-being of our citizens, rather than out of political concerns.

Duffy said deciding against the experts recommendation is a dangerous precedent. The message that we are sending is simple, if you are a new or emerging vendor who works hard, invests in their business, plays by the rules and wins the proposal on merit, you can still lose out because of politics.

The mayor argued that once an RFP is issued, vendors must be judged only on their written proposals and responses to interview questions.

A change in the recommendation could forever taint the integrity and fairness of the RFP process, the mayor wrote. After-the-fact information provided by Rural/Metro flies in the face of the integrity of the RFP system.

Council Chief of Staff Bill Sullivan disagreed. I don t see this as having any spillover effect on any other RFPs the mayor chooses to award, he said.

Most RFPs are issued under a section of the city charter that allows the mayor to employ experts to select the best attorneys, engineers, and other professionals for the city. Emergency services contracts are included under General Municipal Law 122(b), which does not describe any process for selecting a provider.

The mayor said he will use the 30-day review period to consider all options. Even if he vetoes the legislation, which passed 8-1, the council can override his veto.

Gary Walker, a spokesman for the mayor s office, declined to comment on the proposed lawsuit.

Because the city s deputy corporate counsel was on the expert panel that selected Monroe Ambulance, the city must retain outside counsel if a suit is filed. Other panel members included the fire chief, 911 director, executive deputy police chief and city finance director.