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Sunday, February 9, 2014 – 02:00 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, February 10, 2014 – 09:30 a.m.

Was the fix already in?

Questions have arisen regarding irregularities in the competition to win the right to provide conflict representation to indigent criminal defendants in San Bernardino County.

Conflict defense occurs when the Public Defender, for various reasons, declares a conflict and cannot represent the accused, who is unable to pay for their defense in a criminal proceeding. This is something that occurs quite often.

Two multimillion dollar contracts to provide services in the county’s North Desert and East Valley regions have fallen under scrutiny. Contracts which were supposed to be approved by county supervisors in January.

For years, the affected areas have been serviced by Inland Defenders, operated by the Riverside-based law firm of Carter, Spring, Shank & O’Connor (Carter-Spring). The current contracts were put in place in 2008, with several amendments significantly increasing the price tag to the county general fund.

Last fall, the county placed all the contracts out for what was supposed to be competitive bidding, under a request for proposal (RFP). However, it would appear competitive bidding was never really the intent.

In addition to Inland Defenders (Carter-Spring), five other qualified responses were submitted.

What transpired in the review and selection process would appear to be nonsensical, maybe even jaded, for a purportedly objective and legitimate process.

Inland Defenders (Carter-Spring) was significantly under-bid by Greenline, to the tune of $2.25 million over three years. This wide cost disparity still remains after Inland Defenders (Carter Spring), unbeknownst to the other bidders, was afforded a second opportunity to revise its proposal on January 2, 2014. The revised bid was made just one day before the contract award was to be made.

To view Inland Defenders original bid submission, click the following link: Inland Defenders – Original Bid Submission

To view Inland Defenders revised bid submission, click the following link: Inland Defenders – Revised Bid Submission

With several blatant scoring irregularities occuring among the four, then anonymous, raters. The contracts were, once again, recommended to be awarded to Inland Defenders (Carter-Spring).

One of the bid submitters, Greenline Partners, requested copies of some of the submissions. What they discovered lead to the filing of an appeal on January 31. That appeal raises some very serious questions as to the effort the county went to push the contract awards to a desired outcome.

To read the appeal, click the following link: Greenline Partners Appeal

For years, Carter-Spring has been busy doling out campaign contributions to the San Bernardino County Board of Supervisors, and District Attorney.

District Attorney Michael Ramos has been the recipient of $120,500 since 2004. All five current county supervisors, on-the-other-hand, received a total of just $88,500 collectively.

The Greenline appeal takes issue with one of Inland Defenders references.

Documents submitted to InlandPolitics.com includes a Ramos-issued letter, on his official letterhead, recommending Inland Defenders, one of his largest contributors, for the new contracts. A event Greenline describes as a conflict of interst and breach of the adversary relationship between the defense bar and prosecution. A serious ethics allegation.

To view the District Attorney recommendation letter, click the following link: Ramos Recommendation Letter

Here’s a breakdown of the campaign contributions:

District Attorney Michael A. Ramos
.
04/12/2004 Earl Carter                     $  2,500.00
04/12/2004 Jim Spring                      $  2,500.00
08/11/2004 Jim Spring                      $  5,000.00
05/06/2005 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
05/06/2005 Jim Spring                      $  5,000.00
05/23/2005 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
05/23/2005 Jim Spring                      $  5,000.00
07/21/2006 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
07/21/2005 Jim Spring                      $  5,000.00
07/13/2007 Earl Carter                     $  7,000.00
07/13/2007 Jim Spring                      $  7,000.00
05/27/2008 Jim Spring                      $ 14,000.00
06/09/2009 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
06/09/2009 Jim Spring                      $  5,000.00
08/01/2009 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $ 10,000.00
01/05/2010 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $ 10,000.00
05/21/2010 Sean O'Connor                   $  5,000.00
05/18/2011 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
02/29/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
09/20/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
.
Total                                      $120,500.00
.
1st District Supervisor - Robert Lovingood
.
12/07/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
.
Total                                      $  1,500.00
.
2nd District Supervisor - Janice Rutherford
.
92/14/2011 Earl Carter                     $  1,000.00
08/25/2011 Earl Carter                     $    750.00
01/13/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
08/24/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  3,000.00
11/02/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
12/14/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
09/06/2013 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
.
Total                                      $ 12,750.00
.
3rd District Supervisor - James C. Ramos
.
04/17/2013 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
.
Total                                      $  1,500.00
.
4th District Supervisor - Gary Ovitt
.
03/06/2009 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
05/04/2009 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
08/29/2009 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  6,000.00
11/16/2009 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
02/12/2010 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
03/28/2010 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  5,000.00
09/26/2011 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  3,000.00
03/29/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
06/22/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,500.00
09/07/2013 Sean O'Connor                   $  2,000.00
09/17/2013 Sean O'Connor                   $  2,100.00
09/17/2013 Sean O'Connor                   $    400.00
.
Total                                      $ 38,000.00
.
5th District Supervisor - Josie Gonzales
.
12/11/2008 Earl Carter                     $  4,000.00
03/06/2009 Earl Carter                     $  5,000.00
12/17/2009 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,000.00
09/23/2009 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,400.00
02/12/2010 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
05/17/2010 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  3,000.00
03/11/2011 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,250.00
05/18/2011 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  3,000.00
10/24/2011 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,200.00
03/13/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  2,500.00
05/16/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  3,000.00
11/02/2012 Carter Spring Shank & O'Connor  $  1,200.00
09/17/2013 Sean O'Connor                   $  2,000.00
.
Total                                      $ 32,050.00

.

Carter Spring received higher scoring than Greenline in, believe it or not, cost, which made up 35% of the overall score.

Also suspect, is the ratings for business plan and references.

Carter Spring received the highest rating for its “one-page” business plan.

But, more egregious is their “highest score” for references.

Request for Proposal respondents were instructed to not include any extraneous material in their respective bid packages. References were to be listed on the provided form.

Submitted in the Carter Spring package was numerous reference letters, including the aforementioned letter from District Attorney Ramos. The largest recipent of campaign dollars from the firm.

Contrary to the Ramos letter, it’s no secret San Bernardino County has one of the highest plea-bargain rates in the state, fewer jury trials, as percentage of cases filed, than in past years. It should also be noted that San Bernardino County is now number one in the country for gang violence.

To view the RFP Submission Rating Sheet, click the following link: SBCO Indigent Defense RFP Rating Summary

This article is part one in a series.