University questioned in new legal protest

Jacob Dick

A second legal protest was filed Friday concerning WKU’s proposed sports medicine complex, claiming the process for bids unfairly favors Med Center Health, which owns The Medical Center at Bowling Green.

The latest protest from Western Kentucky Orthopedics and Neurological Associates claims the bidding process for the project –– which includes the sport medicine complex project and long-term deal for medical services at the university –– was a copy of the previous deal between Med Center Health and WKU with the time frame of bids and requirements favoring one particular bidder.

“With most of the same terms as the [Letter of Intent] –– as well as a vague scoring system that provides WKU broad discretion on selecting a winner –– the new process appears to use the guise of competitive procedures to legitimize an agreement already made by and between WKU and Medical Center: a 99-year, $22 million deal consummated behind closed doors without using legally-required open competitive processes,” WKONA’s representatives state in the protest.


WKONA is affiliated with Graves-Gilbert Clinic, a large medical practice in Bowling Green which currently operates the on-campus health clinic at WKU.

This is the second legal protest from WKONA WKU’s partnership with The Medical Center. Both protests were filed to the state Finance and Administration Cabinet on behalf of WKONA by Frost Brown Todd LLC.

The protest also states WKONA doesn’t wish to block or delay construction of a sports facility, but is concerned with the deal’s compliance with federal laws against the benefit of private businesses with taxpayers’ money and a potential monopoly that may affect health care customers in Bowling Green.

Jonathan Miller, government relations specialist at Frost Brown Todd, said his clients are not objecting to WKU receiving a facility but are concerned with the process so far.

“We’re really hopeful this doesn’t have to go through the whole legal process,” Miller, who was secretary of the Finance and Administration Cabinet from 2007-11 during the administration of former Gov. Steve Beshear and was the elected Kentucky state treasurer from 2000-2007, said. “This can be easily resolved so the university and students can have a facility they need.”

In its “Statement of Protest” WKONA claims WKU is securing the new $22 million building by “bargaining away the health care right of students, faculty, staff and, indeed, the region.”

The Request for Proposals released by WKU last month specifically mentions in a section of background information the university is self-insured through an employee health program, with Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield as a third-party administrator responsible for providing a network with contracts offering discounted prices. Miller said a potential monopoly with Med Center Health at the center could negatively affect students and employees despite the university’s program.

“Anytime a provider is pushed out of network, it can affect the price consumers pay,” Miller said. “For WKU students, especially on Medicaid, out of network costs could be prohibitive.”

In an email, Director of Media Relations Bob Skipper shared a statement from WKU on the filing of WKONA’s second legal protest.

“Since we are in an active bid process which may include multiple bidders, we will refrain from further comment on this; other than to clarify that this process in no way affects in-network providers or limits healthcare choices for faculty and staff.”

The original protest filed on Friday, Sept. 16, claims procurement laws and regulations to promote fairness and transparency weren’t followed in the execution of the deal with The Medical Center in August. WKU decided to withdraw its deal with The Medical Center and issue a Request for Proposals Sept. 20 after the state Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee in Frankfort told President Gary Ransdell and university administrators the deal might be tabled and a bidding process would be preferable

Ransdell previously said the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee would hear the bid proposals for the project by Tuesday, Oct. 18, but the due date for bids was set for Tuesday, Nov. 1 when the RFP was released.

The Herald previously reported on a heated discussion at the Board of Regents committee meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 21, over the RFP process for the project. At that meeting, Regent John Ridley complained that he felt the timeline for the deal had been manipulated with such a short timetable for submitting proposals.

“I don’t see how anyone is prepared to make a competitive bid when it has taken the person that we have structured this around months to make the deal happen,” Ridley said during the meeting.

WKONA is requesting the Finance and Administration Cabinet halt the deal under the condition of the RFP at this time. Miller said the cabinet could take one or two months of deliberation before a decision is reached.

Reporter Jacob Dick can be reached at 270-745-6011 and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter at @jdickjournalism.