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Centurion has been awarded a contract to manage healthcare in the state's prison system.

A consultant who helped write the New Mexico Corrections Department’s request for proposal on a $41 million health care contract also has ties to a business that sells medical supplies to Centurion, the company that received the contract.

The consultant, Ann Perham, is married to Jonathan Perham, owner of Axess Medical LLC, a Middleton, Mass., company that sells medical supplies to prison health care providers, including to Centurion for its contract in Massachusetts. She said there was no impropriety in her helping to craft the proposal soliciting companies to provide health care for 7,200 prisoners in New Mexico.

But one of the phone numbers Axess lists on its website leads to a voicemail recording by Ann Perham, who is also the signatory of the company’s records.

Perham billed the state 44.75 hours of work at $200 an hour and requested a payment of $8,950 to be sent to her Massachusetts home. The phone and fax numbers on Perham’s invoice are the same as her husband’s medical supply company.

Axess incorporated in Massachusetts in 2009 to “provide procurement services to private companies and institutions for medical supplies, medical equipment and healthcare products,” according to its website.

Ann Perham said she disclosed to the New Mexico Corrections Department the relationship between her and her husband’s business. Perham said in a brief telephone interview that she works with different companies as a consultant. She would not disclose the names of the companies.

“There’s no conflict of interest. It was a basic RFP,” Ann Perham said, using the acronym for request for proposal.

Ann Perham and Alex Tomlin, a deputy secretary of the Corrections Department, said in separate interviews that Axess will not supply Centurion with medical equipment for its New Mexico contract. Neither could say where Centurion would purchase equipment. Mike Brewer, senior vice president of corporate development for Centurion, did not respond to questions emailed to him last week.

Tomlin also told The New Mexican she thought Axess Medical also had a business relationship with one of the other bidders on the New Mexico medical services contract that Centurion won. But spokeswomen for the other two bidders on the contract, Wexford Health Sources and Corizon Correctional Healthcare, said in emails Friday they have no record of ever doing business with Axess Medical. This would indicate that Jonathan Perham’s company had a relationship only with the successful bidder of the contract for which his wife wrote the specifications.

Tomlin said the state’s hiring of Ann Perham was a wise move because Perham is in the prison health care industry and understands how to write the specifications of how a private company would care for inmates.

“It’s a very small world, medical contract vending for prisons, and we were trying our damnedest to make the best deal for taxpayers and not leave anything out,” Tomlin said. “We said, ‘We are not the expert. Let’s go find the expert to help us write the medical contract.’ ”

Tomlin said the department found that expertise in Ann Perham, a former vice president of Corrections Medical Services Inc., but not before it had already hired and then rejected a separate consultant.

The Corrections Department gave the job to Perham after it had first hired Jacqueline Moore & Associates,a Colorado-based firm.

The state on Jan. 4 paid Ann Perham $8,950 for helping to write the 190-page request for proposal, according to a copy of the check turned over by the Corrections Department. Jacqueline Moore said she was never paid for the time she spent preparing the RFP.

Rather, Moore said, Angela Martinez, the Corrections Department’s health services administrator, told Moore her “services were no longer needed.”

Martinez told Moore she was in discussions with potential bidders on the contract, Moore said. State rules on contract bidding outlaw certain communications between the state and bidders. Such laws are meant to prevent one company from having an edge over competitors.

“I told her she really shouldn’t be doing that,” Moore said. “There should be a cone of silence once the RFP process has started, and you should not have RFP conversations with anyone else. And it was from one of the vendors that she got the name of the consultant she used. The vendor was Centurion.”

Tomlin says otherwise. “There was not communications with vendors,” she said, adding that the department did not know what companies would bid on the contract when the state was writing the request for proposal.

Tomlin said the state entered into a contract with Moore, then rejected her. Tomlin would not explain why. As for Moore’s allegation that the process was improper, Tomlin said only one official in the department was authorized to speak to the three companies that bid on the health care contract that Centurion won. Tomlin said there was a directive that prohibited state employees other than Lori Vigil from communicating with the bidders. Vigil is General Services bureau chief of the Corrections Department.

Moore insists that Martinez had communications with Centurion. Moore said that she called Centurion herself when she was working on the proposal for bids. She said she requested data from the company.

“The RFP was not released at that time, but she was talking to vendors,” Moore said of Martinez. “She was talking to Centurion. We were working on the RFP and when I start to work on a project at that point I don’t talk to vendors, you know, and neither does anyone else from the … state. It’s just not ethical. I mean you just don’t give someone else an unfair advantage.”

Moore said the department never paid her for about $8,000 in work. She said she would like to resolve the issue “amicably” rather than through a lawsuit.

The Corrections Department signed a contract with Ann Perham in November. It called on Perham to “perform technical RFP writing and due diligence services” for the department for 40 hours at a rate of $200 an hour. She eventually billed the state for nearly five additional hours. It specified that Perham would assist the department in preparing performance on contract-issues that included penalties, sanctions, cost proposal sheets, Medicaid and staffing requirements.

Tomlin said the Corrections Department was satisfied that Perham had identified her husband as being in the business of supplying goods to prison health care providers.

“As far as NMCD is concerned, our position was, ‘Yes, she made the disclosure,’ ” Tomlin said in reference to Perham. “And we were aware.”

The request for proposal served as the basis for bids submitted to the state by three companies in the prison health care industry. After a six-month competition for the contract, the Corrections Department this month awarded Centurion both contracts to provide both medical care and pharmaceutical services that are worth a combined $52 million.

Corizon, the state’s former inmate medical care provider whose contract expired last week, was not selected, despite earning a higher technical score and offering a lower bid, according to the company’s spokeswoman. Corizon lost the bid a month after a six-month investigation by The New Mexican that raised questions about the quality of care the company provided to inmates.

Santa Fe New Mexican reporter Phaedra Haywood contributed to this report. Contact her at 505-986-3068 or phaywood@sfnewmexican.com.

Contact Justin Horwath at 505-986-3017 or jhorwath@sfnewmexican.com.

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