James Coleman — 

Wellpath LLC is suing Shelby County for $100 million for rescinding a contract agreement to provide healthcare services for adult and youth inmates and detainees in county jails.

The lawsuit alleges the county pulled out of the deal after a competitor, Corizon Health, sent a letter to the Shelby County Board of Commissioners on August 11. It asserts that the county dropped Wellpath the next day, even though Wellpath had previously come to an understanding on a new contract with the commission on August 7.

“Wellpath absolutely does not believe that the timing of Corizon’s letter and the County’s recision of the award to Wellpath was coincidental,” said Clarence Wilbon, attorney for the Nashville-based provider, in a statement.

“This holds especially true given that Corizon also contacted some Wellpath employees seeking to meet with them in advance of Corizon’s purported takeover from Wellpath.”

Corizon promised to spend $40 million over five years with 15 minority- or women-owned businesses. Howver, Wellpath claims that the awarding of those contracts would be improper because some of them have family members, business associates and others with connections to the Commission.

“Corizon is confident that our proposed working relationships with community partners who are successful Shelby County business leaders and employers in good standing with the Shelby County EOC (Equal Opportunity Compliance) will be appropriate and valuable elements of our ongoing service to the county,” said Corizon in a statement.

The Shelby County Attorney’s Office declined comment on pending litigation.

Shelby County has spent $146.1 million contracting with Wellpath since 2013. The most recent contract expired on June 30, 2018. With no contract, the county awarded the provider a series of extensions. A sixth extension was negotiated in May.

“Corizon lost the business 14 years ago, due to lack of performance. Now, since they weren’t able to win the business on the strength of their capabilities or their proposal, they’re trying to buy Shelby County’s business,” said Wilbon.