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July 31, 2013

Warden gains more control in new PrimeCare contract

SOMERSET — An agreement finalized with the county jail’s medical treatment provider will give Somerset County officials more control over staff the agency stations at the facility.

Somerset County commissioners said the new contract with PrimeCare Medical Inc. will give the jail’s warden the ability to require the company to replace an employee if issues arise – or if he simply deems it necessary.

“Until now, the warden only stepped in when security issues were a factor,” Commissioner John Vatavuk said.

“Now,” Solicitor Daniel Rullo added, “it’s his discretion, regardless of the particular reason – whether it’s a personnel issue or a situation where he feels an employee just isn’t working out.”

County officials said Warden Greg Briggs will be more involved when PrimeCare brings in a new employee to the jail.

Rullo and Vatavuk said a county and police probe into jail operations prompted them to take a fresh look at the contract.

The initial investigation was launched after Somerset Commissioner Joe Betta voiced concerns about issues with PrimeCare, including falsifying records.

Somerset police investigated and found claims against PrimeCare as baseless or unfounded, investigators said at the time.

But there’s always room to strengthen controls inside the jail, Vatavuk added.

“They had some problems. They changed the employees there and the problems are solved,” he said earlier this month.

On Tuesday, he credited PrimeCare with doing a solid job overall at the jail and said the company earned another three-year contract.

The new contract goes into effect in August. The county will pay PrimeCare $388,777 for the first year.

Rullo said the county and PrimeCare agreed to the new terms, which also allow both sides to exit the deal with 120 days’ notice instead of 180, as in the previous agreement.

“We’re just really happy we’re going to be partnered with Somerset County,” Frank Komykoski, PrimeCare’s vice president of operations, said following the county’s vote to renew the deal.

Betta opposed the contract with PrimeCare and indicated the new contract language has not swayed his opinion.

He said he’s hoping for a federal investigation into the matter but said he could not elaborate.

Follow Tribune-Democrat reporter David Hurst on Twitter @tddavidhurst.


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