Fire Chief Mark Hartwig filed an appeal last week that challenges Santa Barbara County’s decision to award the ambulance services contract to American Medical Response.

A five-person panel evaluated the Santa Barbara County Fire Department and AMR proposals for the contract, which is scheduled to start in 2024, and scored AMR’s higher.

At stake is a multimillion-dollar contract to provide exclusive ambulance services to the entire county, including emergency response and transport and inter-facility transfers.

Fire Chief Mark Hartwig
Mark Hartwig

AMR has been the provider for about 50 years, and this is the first time the county has conducted a public bidding process for the contract.

Hartwig filed a protest of the initial decision, which was denied by the county’s procurement officer.

In response to that denial, he filed an appeal last week.

“The denial was arbitrary, capricious, entirely lacking in evidentiary/factual support, contrary to established public policy, unlawful, and/or procedurally unfair,” he wrote.

The appeal letter alleges the county’s purchasing agent did not investigate or evaluate some of the protest letter’s allegations.

Hartwig had accused AMR’s proposal of being nonresponsive and containing false and misleading statements. He said the county’s protest denial did not address all of those allegations.

He also said the scoring process didn’t evaluate “fiscal adequacy” of the proposals or the economic benefits to taxpayers, and should have.

“The district’s proposal should have been selected as the winning proposal because it offers terms and conditions that are more advantageous to county than AMR’s proposal, as required to be considered by county code (sections),” he wrote in the appeal letter.

The Public Health Department has said the appeal will be heard by a Protest Resolution Committee, whose members are not disclosed.

“Once that process concludes, the Public Health Department will evaluate the results of the entire protest process to determine the next steps,” Public Health spokeswoman Jackie Ruiz told Noozhawk in November.

Once a provider is chosen, county representatives will enter contract negotiations and eventually present a contract to the Board of Supervisors for approval.

Hartwig’s concerns with the process likely contributed to their decision last month to cut the county’s own consultant out of the protest review process.

Fitch & Associates is helping conduct the request-for-proposals process and contract negotiations with whichever provider is chosen.

The consultant contract did not include the protest or appeal review process, and the board specifically chose not to pay Fitch to work on it.

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Giana Magnoli, Noozhawk Managing Editor

Noozhawk managing editor Giana Magnoli can be reached at