Shops Protest Arizona Decision

Just weeks after awarding its anti-smoking account to E.B. Lane Marketing Communications, the Arizona Department of Health Services has come under fire over alleged irregularities in the bid selection process.

The dispute prompted state officials to put the account on hold last week pending the outcome of an internal investigation.

Two Phoenix shops that were finalists for the business filed protests with Arizona’s Department of Administration State Procurement Office. One is five-year incumbent Riester-Robb, which laid off 16 of its 49 staffers when it lost the business. The other is Moses Anshell, which won the state’s $6 million tourism account last month.

The anti-smoking account is worth $10-15 million a year, with the option to renew four times.

ADHS communications director Michael Murphy said the stay on the account could be lifted as early as this week. “Obviously, we feel very confident in the process,” he said.

In protest letters filed with the state on June 22 and July 3, Riester-Robb demanded that the contract be re-bid with a new administrator and evaluation committee. The shop charged that one committee member had a conflict of interest that “tainted” the process and that E.B. Lane’s proposal failed to meet the requirements of the RFP. It also alleged that the committee’s scoring formula was flawed.

“Our purpose is to make sure the citizens of the state can continue to receive appropriate help when it comes to tobacco prevention and cessation,” said Riester-Robb president Tim Riester.

Riester-Robb lawyer Roger Morris said a lawsuit is possible but “we hope we can fix it at this point.”

Moses Anshell’s protest stems from inconsistencies in scoring, said agency CEO Jos Anshell.

“We believe it was a very fair process and the decision will stand,” said E.B. Lane CEO Beau Lane.