Judge issues restraining order on EMS contract

ORANGE, NJ — Newark Superior Court Judge Keith E. Lynott issued a temporary restraining order Friday, April 5, to East Orange businessman Kevin Taylor, a former mayoral and City Council candidate, on behalf of the Americare ambulance company he co-owns, in order to block the implementation of a $333,400 contract to provide emergency medical services between the city and Bell Medical Transportation, which was to go into effect Wednesday, April 3.

“The public interest is advanced by the proper application of local public contract law. Here I find that the public interest would be harmed, in the event of the contravention of these laws,” said Lynott on Friday, April 5. “The public needs and relies on a smoothly functioning EMS. The court of course takes this matter very seriously. I believe that the burden of hardship does favor the plaintiff. I conclude that the public interest would not be harmed by the implementation of restraints at this time. I will emphasize again that the plaintiff has established his right to a temporary restraint.”

Lynott’s ruling was the result of a lawsuit Taylor filed against Orange on behalf of Americare, when it did not win the EMS contract, although he believes it submitted the lowest bid, $295,000, not Bell Medical Transportation LLC.

“Even granting Bell’s qualifications as a contractor, it is undisputed at this time that Americare was the lowest bidder,” said Lynott. “So I conclude that the public interest lies with the proper application of local public contract law. Granting the temporary stay would serve the public interest.”

Lynott also ordered Taylor, the attorney representing Orange, and other interested parties in the case to appear in his courtroom again on Thursday, May 23. Meanwhile, Lynott also ordered Pulse Medical Transportation, which has been providing EMS service for Orange, to continue providing service until this issue is resolved.

Taylor said Americare should have gotten the Orange EMS contract, because it submitted the lowest bid, $295,000, to replace Orange’s current EMS provider, the Pulse Medical Transportation company. But Orange business administrator Chris Hartwyck said Americare’s bid was disqualified because it had been delivered in an unsealed envelope.

According to state, county and local municipal law, all bids on public contracts have to be sealed at the time they are submitted for review and possible approval by the proper authorities.

“Once the bid was open, that’s where the problem was,” said Harold Weiner, Irvington’s municipal clerk, on Monday, April 15. “Then there is the ability to collude. It makes it difficult that the bid was already opened. In some cases, these are multimillion-dollar contracts.”

Taylor’s intentions in Orange hit a snag Tuesday, March 19, when Orange City Council unanimously voted to award the city’s EMS contract to Bell Medical Transport, of Orange, from Wednesday, April 3, 2019, to April 2, 2020, for $333,400, with the option to extend the contract for two, one-year extensions in an amount not to exceed $733,310. Orange city clerk Joyce Lanier confirmed on Monday, April 8, that it was a walk-on to the council’s regular meeting agenda.

According to Resolution No. 112-2019, the city only received legitimate bids from Bell Medical Transport LLC of Orange and Pulse Medical Transportation. Businesses are asked to submit bids and the government is obliged to choose the lowest bid. Any bid submitted for review in an unsealed envelope to government representatives — in this case, Hartwyck and Orange Finance Director Adrian Mapp — is automatically disqualified.