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Plans for Osceola County equine-therapy center leads to litigation

When local governments work with Florida businesses, they are obligated to treat all companies fairly. Because partnerships with government agencies are often lucrative for businesses, competition for them is sometimes fierce. Typically, they’re required to follow strict procurement procedures. When government agencies select a vendor without giving equal consideration to competing businesses, they may face business litigation.

Osceola County’s plan to open an equine-therapy center at Osceola Heritage Park has drawn criticism from both businesses and residents. Two competing equine-therapy organizations allege that the county negotiated the deal with a non-profit business and the University of Central Florida, which plans to conduct research at the site, without considering other organizations.

The two companies that were not selected, along with local residents, have filed a lawsuit against the county. According to some residents, the equine-therapy center is an inefficient use of public funds and may be damaging to the environment. All three of the organizations involved, including the one that was selected, are non-profits. However, it is not clear whether either of the organizations that were not selected would be more environmentally friendly. The details of the county’s procurement process are unknown. If the court sides with the plaintiffs, the county may have to scrap its plans for the equine-therapy center.

In most cases, it is best for local government agencies to consider several businesses so that they can find the most cost effective way to provide services to residents. Businesses that have been treated unfairly in the procurement process may find it helpful to consult an attorney.

Source: Orlando Sentinel, “Osceola plan to build equine therapy center draws lawsuit,” David Breen, August 23, 2013

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