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Former Hernando County jail operator CCA sues over money, equipment

BROOKSVILLE — The former operator of the Hernando County Jail has sued Hernando County in federal court over money held back from the company and equipment it argues the county has improperly claimed.

Corrections Corporation of America, which operated the county jail for 22 years, ended its contract in August. But the transition was a bumpy one with the county and CCA tussling over who owned what inside the facility and how much CCA owed for the jail's run-down condition.

In September, the Hernando County Commission voted to hold back the amount invoiced for July and August, a total of $1.8 million. County officials wanted to wait until they received word from an engineering firm they had hired to determine how much it would cost to bring the jail up to standard and how much of that should be paid by CCA for a failure to do maintenance.

CCA officials urged the commission to not hold back the funding and indicated that they believe their liability for deferred maintenance is far less than the $1.8 million. They demanded immediate payment.

This week, the County Commission was given the preliminary engineering report and learned that the overall cost to make repairs and renovations to the jail was $14.9 million and CCA's responsibility was just under $1 million.

The commission deferred a decision until the final report from the engineering firm, which should be available by the board's Oct. 12 meeting.

The complaint outlines the contract language that required Hernando County to pay CCA on a per-inmate basis. While county officials stated they withheld payment because CCA owed the county for deferred maintenance costs, CCA states "the contract does not contain a provision authorizing the county to withhold payment of the July and August 2010 invoices."

By withholding payment, the county breached its contract, CCA alleges in the complaint.

CCA also accuses the county of violating its contract because the county claimed to own some of the equipment the company provided to run the jail.

The commission was told several weeks ago that agreement had been reached on all of the inventory issues including the county agreeing to pay $8,921 for a list of items CCA had at the jail including bulletin boards, a metal detector and a CPR mannequin.

The County Attorney's Office had no comment on the lawsuit and does not comment on pending litigation, said Assistant County Attorney Jon Jouben.

Barbara Behrendt can be reached at behrendt@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1434.

Former Hernando County jail operator CCA sues over money, equipment 09/30/10 [Last modified: Thursday, September 30, 2010 8:25pm]
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