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COA: Competitor can't challenge state contract for services

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A mental health services provider doesn’t have standing to challenge a nonprofit competitor’s subcontract for similar services with the Indiana Department of Administration, the state’s second highest appellate court has ruled.

In Midwest Psychological Center, Inc. v. Indiana Dept. of Administration, et al., No. 49A02-1103-MI-213, the Indiana Court of Appeals affirmed a ruling from Marion Superior Judge Cynthia Ayers regarding a contract with the state Department of Administration.

The state hired a company named Corizon to provide mental health services and that company has a subcontract for some of those services with Indiana Minority Health Coalition, a nonprofit organization that is certified by the state as a minority business enterprise (MBE). But Midwest Psychological Center Inc., the only for-profit MBE mental health provider in Indiana that provides the same services as Minority Health, objected to the contract and filed a grievance that alleged Minority Health wasn’t eligible to be certified as a MBE. Midwest filed a complaint seeking a declaratory judgment on various points: that Minority Health isn’t a MBE; that defendant Tony Kirkland has a conflict of interest by serving both on Minority Health’s governing board and as the commissioner overseeing IDOA’s decertification process; enjoining Minority Health from providing mental health services under its subcontract; and enjoining the state from contracting with Corizon because of its subcontract with Minority Health.

The trial court found Midwest lacked standing and granted motions for judgment on the pleadings in favor of the state and Minority Health. On appeal, the three-judge appellate panel found that Midwest isn’t an “aggrieved party” under Indiana Code 5-22-19-2 and, as a result, doesn’t have standing to challenge either the subcontract or the underlying contract.

Midwest argued that it has standing as an aggrieved party under the Public Purchasing Act outlined in IC 5-22. It argued that it’s the only for-profit that is certified as a MBE to provide those mental health services and if Minority Health was decertified, Corizon would have to subcontract with Midwest.

The appellate court disagreed, finding that generally an unsuccessful bidder doesn’t have standing to challenge the award of a government contract under the Public Purchasing Act. The court didn’t address Midwest’s arguments regarding primary jurisdiction because the case was resolved on on the other points.

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