Legal protest filed against deal with Medical Center

Jacob Dick

A Bowling Green medical provider filed a legal protest Friday against the deal between WKU and the Medical Center.

The protest was filed to the state Finance and Administration Cabinet on behalf of Western Kentucky Orthopedic and Neurological Associates (WKONA), former health services provider for WKU Athletics. It claims procurement laws and regulations to promote fairness and transparency weren’t followed in the execution of the deal.

In August, the Board of Regents approved the deal that would provide a $22 million athletics and training facility and make the Medical Center the university’s health services provider.

According to the supplement to the bid originally filed on Sep. 2, documents received by Frost Brown Todd LLC on behalf of WKONA show the 99-year lease of land and exclusive health services rights promised to the Medical Center were arranged behind closed doors.

WKONA, owned by current campus health services provider Graves Gilbert Clinic, is claiming in the protest that while they were approached with the offer to fund the new facility, they and other health service providers were never offered the lease or exclusive rights as campus health services and were not allowed to compete for the bid.

They also claim WKU told the Capital Projects and Bond Oversight Committee it didn’t follow the normal statutes regarding lease purchases, public-private partnerships or capital construction projects.

The protest also contains excerpts of private messages from President Gary Ransdell and Board of Regents members as well as CEO of Medical Center Connie Smith.

The protest claims Ransdell told the board in a private letter on Aug. 2, he had made contact with Medical Center with intent to make a deal with them.

“[T]o be clear, I specifically asked The Medical Center to make this investment on our campus,” the protest states.

It goes on to claim Ransdell wrote an email on Aug. 9, to the Board of Regents saying he had met with Smith to negotiate the terms of the deal. He later forwarded the email to Smith.

WKONA and their legal counsel request in the protest the Finance and Administration Cabinet should block WKU from awarding a contract to the Medical Center without following proper procedures to request bids from competing services.

In the protest, WKONA repeats several times the health service provider doesn’t take issue with WKU receiving an athletic facility but the way the deal was arranged sets a precedent for private organizations to make monopolizing deals with government entities, eliminating competition and transparency.