March 4, 2008

The accreditation that never was ... (Dirty linen, Pt. 2)

The nasty boil that burst at last Tuesday's County Board meeting -- with Corporation Counsel Jonathan F. Lehman berating Supervisor Diane M. Lange for more than ten minutes -- had its origins on Sept. 1, 2007. (Audiotape HERE; start at the 21-minute mark.)

That's the date the county signed a contract with Superior Health Linens for laundry service at the Ridgewood Care Center. According to Lange, Section 9.2 of this contract states: “Upon request, Superior shall provide to customer copies of its Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC) audits and certification as evidence for meeting state and/ or JACHO standards as they pertain to linen service.” (JACHO stands for Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations.)

Some time in December, however, Lange says, she began hearing that Superior actually is not accredited, and she began asking questions -- both of county officials and of the accreditation body.

On Jan. 11 she emailed Corporation Counsel Lehman, and Geoffrey Greiveldinger, chief of staff to County Executive William McReynolds, asking them to look into the question -- but got no response.

Then, just five days later on Jan. 16 something did happen: Lehman and McReynolds signed an amendment to the original contract, eliminating any requirement that Superior be accredited.

Lehman writes Joseph F. Bellante Jr., chairman of the County Board's Health and Human Development Committee, "There is not, nor has there ever been, a “requirement” that Superior have HLAC accreditation. Under the contract, Superior is required to comply with all relevant health and environmental regulations, but it need not be accredited by a voluntary, non-governmental entity. Supervisor Lange’s suggestion that there ever was such a requirement in the contract, shows that she also fails to understand contract law."

But his letter also says: "Supervisor Lange complains that, as originally signed, the 2007 contract contained an implicit statement that Superior is accredited by the Healthcare Laundry Accreditation Council (HLAC), a non-profit organization that certifies laundry services that voluntarily request it. That much is correct. Although Superior may be seeking such accreditation, it is not currently accredited. The contract has since been amended to eliminate the implication that it has this voluntary accreditation." (Emphasis added by RacinePost.)

Lange responds, "I heard they misrepresented themselves in the contract." On Jan. 23, in fact, Lange received confirmation that Superior Health Linens is not HLAC-accredited and had not been inspected.

Regardless, given Lehman's assertion that no accreditation is required --"Let me state clearly: HLAC accreditation was not mentioned in the RFP, it was not mentioned in Superior’s bid, it was not a condition of eligibility to bid," he writes -- the question has to be asked: Where did Sec. 9.2 of the contract -- the one mentioning audits and certification from the accreditation council -- come from in the first place?

Lehman is upset by statements he says Lange made saying that he wrote the amendment changing the contract, eliminating the apparently unnecessary-from-the-start accreditation certification. He makes clear that he didn't write it: "It was drafted by Superior," he says. Nor was the amendment triggered by any of Lange's communiques, Lehman says. The amendment was sent to County officials by Superior in December. (Which raises another whole set of questions, beginning with "Why did Superior draft the amendment to the contract they and the county had already signed?")

Lange merely wonders: "I don't know where Sec. 9.2 got in, and Lehman says it's immaterial because it's not part of the specifications in the RFP. Maybe it wasn't part of the RFP, but Superior put it in that they were accredited, but then later on acted like, 'we could get caught in this little misrepresentation, so let's amend it.' "

"Part of what I was challenging is: Is this the way the county wants to do business? 'Oh, we want to delete this thing and just amend it.' If I was another company that put a bid in and didn't get the contract, I'd be upset." In fact, Hospital Laundry Services, another company that bid on the Ridgewood contract in August, is HLAC-certified.

There is, as you might have guessed, a bigger issue than just this contract amendment. Underlying Lange's concerns are charges and investigations dealing with how Superior, which has contracted with the county since 2004, treats their employees. Lange, District 3, along with Supervisors Dan Sharkozy, District 8, and Gaynell Dyess, District 2, wrote a letter to Superior in 2006, asking questions about worker treatment after some unfavorable stories emerged elsewhere in the state. "They answered back and said they were treating everyone fairly."

But those questions have persisted, as we reported HERE. Lange said she met with the chairman of the Dane County Board last fall, "and he was relaying some of the process there. The county held hearings on Superior's treatment of its workers, and several workers testified. They did not renew the contract there."

"Just because Racine County has chosen to privatize our laundry services, it doesn't mean we can wash our hands about a company and how they treat their employees," Lange said.

Lange is philosophical about Lehman's response to her questions. "I think the past practices of a company are relevant. But here, part of me thinks there's tension between the Legislative and Executive branches. The Executive Branch doesn't want to be challenged."

Lehman's response to that point, contained in his letter, seems to bear her out. "Supervisor Lange complains that neither the Chief of Staff nor I responded to her emailed concerns. The statement is correct. What is not correct is the implication that her emails merited a response of any kind, much less action in furtherance of her unfounded complaints." Lehman points out that Lange is not a member of either of the two committees with oversight of the matter; nor does she have any affected constituents, he says. Therefore, "while her communication to the Chief of Staff and me might have been of interest, it was not one to which the Executive Branch was bound to reply." Until last Tuesday night, when no Supervisors could get a word in edgewise...

For more information, read the two letters written to Supervisor Bellante Jr., chairman of the County Board's Health and Human Development Committee (he ascended to the chairmanship after David Hazen resigned from the Board last fall). Lange's letter to Bellante was written on Feb.23; Lehman's response was written on Feb. 26. Lange's is HERE; and Lehman's is HERE.


  1. Affected constituents?

    On the contrary, anyone with a loved one at Ridgewood -- or who is employed there -- is affected. Continued good wishes for Diane Lange in speaking up and asking questions.

    It is appalling to hear of the lack of respect by the county executive for Ms. Lange and the democratric process.

  2. Go get them Ms. Lang, Colt backs you 100% let us know how we can help.
    So disgusting that the county is paying this company one dime.

  3. Here is the county's Consul contact info:
    730 Wisconsin Avenue, 10th Floor
    Racine, Wisconsin 53403-1274
    Phone (262) 636-3876

    Corporation Counsel
    I think we all should call him to let him know what we thing of his actions

  4. Disjusted and Outraged.3/04/2008 10:56 AM

    The arrogance must be eliminated, Lehman should be disciplined, apologize to Diane Lange.

    How strange an amendment is made to the contract when Diane raises questions. Too blasted strange.

    I think an independent counsel should investigate:

    Connections between Lehman and Superior Laundry. Who would even think of signing them on to do Ridgewood's Laundry. Disgusting and Racine's elderly need to be protected.

    Affected constitutents? Besides the elderly and employees at Ridgewood, all of Racine is affected.

    We are affected and insulted by the underhandedness of Lehman and MCreynold's "assistant" and their sneakiness in slipping in the amendement so nicely provided by the sleazy Superior laundry.

    Does Racine want this kind of sleaziness doing our laundry of the elderly?

    Does Racine want Lehman and Grieveldinger to continue on as employees knowing that they tried to put on over on the public in signing a sleazy employer such as Superior?

    Who gave Lehman cart blanche in trying to dress down Lange? Did he act on his own? Who did he tell in McReynold's office what he was going to do at the Board meeting? He did tell a few people that Diane had a dressing down coming, right?

    What the heck were the other country board members doing? Sitting doing nothing? Enjoying the show? This also is a disgusting lack of maturity and class for those board members who just sat by and watched it happen.

    We as a community need to clean up and clear out these members who sat by and did nothing as usual.

    We as a community need to clean up and clear out the legal counsel and other employees who think they rule, for lack of a better term. What do they do in office? They were just going to let this all slide by?

    Mac should be held responsible for allowing these employees to manipulate a contract in cohersion with Superior laundry.

    Racine Post - don't let go of this story, is this is just the tip of the iceberg?

  5. After reading Jon Lehman’s condescending response, let me say very clearly: as a constituent, I have a very significant concern about this company!

    Whether or not the County Supervisor and Counsel acted appropriately is not the point. It is the appearance that they did not, and on behalf of a very troubling company, makes me even more concerned.

    That they never even mention the allegations of union-busting and poor treatment of employees as something to consider, tell me THEY JUST DON’T GET IT!

    This is our money, low bid or not; I want it spent with a reputable company.

  6. Umm... They were the low bidder. Of course they were selected.

    That is how it works: if they meet the standards set forth in the Request for Proposal, and they have the lowest price, they get the contract.

    Anything else would be fiscally irresponsible. Can you imagine the stink if we contracted with a company that was not the low bidder?

    This is about Lange sucking up to her union friends, because Superior is not a union shop.

  7. It is sure funny how Pete and Dustin are fronting for Diane and the Progressive. This is not a news blog it is a opinion blog like the rest of them.

  8. Naturally, Dustin who always misses the point and never has his facts straight, Diane Lange is fronting for a New York Union.

  9. No sorry, but we don't need a low bid scum with a bad record. You do NOT have to take a low bid when the company has serious concerns.

    The county board doesn't seem to have the balls or the integrity to even lift a lazy finger to investigate,they just sat back and let a person who calls himself a lawyer try and dress down someone who had legitimate concerns.

    I think 20/20 or 60 minutes might be a better vehicle, can someone email the tape to them?

  10. Colt is not a fan of unions however Colt is a BIG fan of companies who are ethical, IMHO this company is far from ethical.
    Also Ms. Lang as much as do not agree with her should be treated with respect.
    Shame Shame on the County Council

  11. Colt, I just read the above, you seem to have connections with media/movie personnel, can you email the tapes, etc to 20/20 or 60 Minutes?

  12. John J. Cummings3/04/2008 2:45 PM

    Astonishing, I think in this case a union is very MUCH needed, look at the terrible way Superior runs their business and treats their employees. Good god, who else is going to take care of these individuals. Racine should be ashamed to have signed the contract and whoever this lawyer is should be friggin' fired.

    Colt, I don't know who you are but really, someone outside of Racine County government needs to investigate this.

    I am just starting to read though all of this after listening to the meeting minutes and we are repulsed and embarassed not for Ms Lange but for the lawyer who claims to represent Racine citizens. This is so apalling. You almost want to stand up and cheer for the man who finally stepped in and stopped the disgusting rant. Perhaps there is more to the story about going with a non-union company with an equally apalling health record.

  13. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

  14. Further evidences that the Racinepost is working with Diane Lange. The new quote is not in her letter, so why doesn't the Racinepost and Dustin admit that they are with Lange and not independent.

  15. Has anyone seen the letter to the editor in the jt, where Lange, Hall and Lumpkin refused to answer a open records request? I guess when your the protector of the people you don't have to follow the rules.

  16. From Jayne Siler?! Are you kidding?! She is not an arbiter of fair political process by any stretch of the imagination! Did she ask for ALL of the emails from ALL the supervisors? No, of course not! She did it to target the few she wanted to say had something to hide.

    “Hey! I’m a crazy lady. Give me all your emails or I’ll say bad things about you.”

  17. Jayne Siler isn't qualified to get much of anything, she cannot comprehend simple math.

    Jayne herself should have been all over this contract and should be questioning the attorney not the people who appear to be the only ones are not rubberstamps.

    Jayne is puppet for a few and lacks credibility and any kind of respect in the community.

  18. Lange requested and received open records requests on a handful of her opponents. Then she manipulated the system, and refused to release her own records.

    What does Lange have to hide? Why will she not release her records?

  19. Lehman is not political, he is professional staff. Subjecting professional staff to political attack is unacceptable.

    Lehman was doing his job, on an issue which seems to be much about nothing, except more grandstanding from Lange. The Racine Post regurgitates some union agitprop they tried to use to unionize this company. You can read similar stuff from the unions on any company they can't control. None of that has anything to do with this issue. Those stories cited are sensationalized, and NONE of them relate to the company's performance of their contract with Racine County.

    This concerns a non-material aspect of a contract; Accreditation was not included in the RFP, so by law it could not be used in evaluating the bid. The only thing that matters is, is the company doing the job according to the RFP and the material standards of the contract.

    It appears as though they are, since nobody has produced evidence to the contrary.

  20. Attacking Jayne Siler is attacking the messenger. It does not invalidate her request for Lange's records, which by law belong to us.

    What does she have to hide?

  21. Lehman was completely out of line and unprofessional. As a "professional" he fails the expectations of one.

    He should be disciplined.

  22. This episode is symptomatic of Lange's inability to work with the rest of the board, and the professional staff.

    She had no basis on which to attack the integrity of the county's attorney, Jon Lehman.

  23. Diane Lange - The Bernice Thompson of the County Board.

    Bernice was always probing, examining receipts, questioning. She caught expenses of a man's tie bought and paid for by the school district. She had an eagle eye and a sniffer for the out of place and inappropriate expenditures.

    Hats off to you Diane, this is a compliment.