Could a lawsuit throw a wrench in Huntsville City Schools’ ability to find temporary staff next school year?

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. -- EPSCO Inc. has  filed a civil lawsuit against the Huntsville City Schools Superintendent and Board of Education following the district's decision to award a bid to the company Professional Education Services Group.

The lawsuit was filed Monday in Madison County Circuit Court.

EPSCO is seeking an injunction that would block the school system from entering a contract with PESG and restart the bidding process to find a company to provide temporary staffing services, leaving the district only a few months to award a bid to another company. The lawsuit notes that the contract would staff for operations, the child nutrition program, maintenance, custodial, asset management, security, and information technology.

According to court documents, EPSCO claims that the district violated the state's Competitive Bid Law when it awarded the bid to PESG since EPSCO had the lowest bid.

EPSCO has provided temporary staffing services for the district since 2011.

In March, EPSCO was invited to bid on a new three-year contract, but during the bidding process, the Board of Education deemed EPSCO an irresponsible bidder.

The lawsuit says the Board's decision to award the contract to PESG was based on the unsupported allegation by Deputy Superintendent of Finance, Bob Hagood that EPSCO was a "non-responsible" or "irresponsible bidder".

The suit claims a member of the Huntsville City School's administration claimed that there existed a "substantial amount of documented information concerning EPSCO's unsatisfactory performance over the past three years" which resulted in EPSCO being deemed a "non-responsible bidder."

The lawsuit argues, "Despite EPSCO’s formal request, the Board has yet to provide any documentation of any sort supporting the Board’s allegation that EPSCO was in any way an 'irresponsible bidder.'"

School Board President Elisa Ferrell says, ""We had people documenting extensively. It came this year and we went through and we said no longer will we allow them to bid."

She listed several reasons why a company may be deemed "irresponsible".

"Not being fully staffed, not having people show up, not having people do their work, having a security guard that might throw a child into a wall. Those kinds of things would cause someone to be an irresponsible bidder."

The lawsuit also claims the Board inviting EPSCO to bid was an attempt to drive down the proposals submitted by other bidders since EPSCO's prior bids were known by its competitors and there is no reasonable explanation to invite the company to submit a bid only to later claim it was an "irresponsible bidder."

"We had an open invitation that was posted and anyone in the area could come, so it wasn't like we called them and said please bid on this. We let everyone know that the bid was open," Ferrell said.

According to state law, a company that isn't awarded a bid cannot sue to recover damages but instead is limited to injunctive relief.

"We will prevail in any legal situation," Ferrell said.

Ferrell says the district is waiting to see what the judge decides, but they will do everything in their power to ensure schools are fully staffed when students return in August.

WHNT News 19 has reached out to Huntsville City Schools for comment and is still waiting for a response.
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