St. Clair, 082317 WVAGO, AGO 082317

Docket Nº:AGO 082317
Case Date:August 23, 2017
Court:West Virginia
The Honorable Justin St. Clair
AGO 082317
No. 082317
West Virginia Attorney General Opinions
State of West Virginia Office of the Attorney General
August 23, 2017
         The Honorable Justin St. Clair          Monroe County Prosecuting Attorney          PO Box 740          Union, WV 24983          Dear Mr. St. Clair:          You have asked for an Opinion of the Attorney General about whether the Monroe County Commission ("the Commission") may pay local EMS squads for emergency ambulance services without seeking competitive bids for the provision of those services. This Opinion is being issued pursuant to West Virginia Code § 5-3-1, which provides that the Attorney General "shall give written opinions and advise upon questions of law,. .. whenever required to do so, in writing, by . . . any . . . state officer, board, or commission." To the extent this Opinion relies on facts, it is based solely upon the factual assertions set forth in your correspondence with the Office of the Attorney General.          In your correspondence, you explain that the Commission, in response to financial difficulties experienced by a local EMS squad, has voted to impose an Emergency Ambulance Service Fee pursuant to the Emergency Ambulance Service Act of 1975, W.V. Code § 7-15-1 et seq. (the "Act"). You further explain that the Commission has not voted to form an "emergency ambulance service authority" under the Act. Id. § 7-15-3(a). Instead, the Commission has voted to create an emergency ambulance fund, from which it will pay EMS squads contracted by the Commission. You also note that the Commission does not intend any of these contracts to involve the construction of buildings or other facilities in the County.          Your letter poses two distinct questions about the potential application of West Virginia law, and specifically West Virginia Code §7-15-16, to this arrangement: First, whether the Commission is required to seek competitive bids for emergency ambulance service contracts; and second, whether the Commission can give preference to bids from local ambulance squads in the event that bids are required. We conclude that the Commission is not required to seek competitive bids from EMS squads for emergency ambulance services, and therefore, the second question posed by your correspondence need not be addressed.          This Opinion addresses the following legal question:          Is a county commission that contracts for ambulance services required to select these contracts through a competitive bidding process?          Based on the text of West Virginia Code § 7-15-16, related statutory provisions, and the negative-inference principle of statutory interpretation ("expressio unius est exclusio alterius"), we conclude that county commissions are not required to solicit competitive bids for ambulance service contracts. Instead, we conclude that the competitive bidding requirement contained in § 7-15-16 applies only to "emergency ambulance service authorities]" authorized by the Act, not to county commissions that elect to provide ambulance services via private contract.          As you are likely aware, the Act imposes a duty on county commissions to provide emergency...

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