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Controversial pandemic consultant gets another $300,000 from Missouri

Controversial pandemic consultant gets another $300,000 from Missouri

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JEFFERSON CITY — A Virginia-based consulting firm has garnered another paycheck from the state, pushing its earnings for assisting the state during a pandemic to over $829,000.

State payroll records show the McChrystal Group continued to be paid out of Missouri’s share of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act funds, which are being used to help fend off the effects of the coronavirus.

The payouts are part of a controversial no-bid contract the state inked with the firm worth $248,000 per month.

The contract, which runs through Dec. 31, could be worth more than $1.3 million. It could be reduced if the state replaces company workers with state employees. A review is set for September.

Adding to the unorthodox arrangement, a copy of the contract shows it beginning on June 1. But the company didn’t sign off on the document until July 31. The state didn’t sign off until Aug. 5.

The June 1 start date came less than a month after Republican Gov. Mike Parson said the state was not paying the company as it helped the state respond to the health and economic effects of the spread of COVID-19.

At that time, Parson said the Missouri Foundation for Health would be paying for work by the company, which was founded by retired four-star Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal.

McChrystal served as the chief commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan until he was ousted in 2010.

Among the reasons for his departure were derisive remarks by him and his aides about former Vice President Joe Biden, the current Democratic nominee for president.

Parson aides say the firm was hired to provide a management system and structure to facilitate pandemic-related problem-solving between various state agencies and the governor’s Cabinet.

Stanley McChrystal

Gen. Stanley McChrystal, seen here in Marjah, Afghanistan, on March 7, 2010.  (AP Photo/Dusan Vranic)

Heading up the company’s team is retired Brigadier Gen. Thomas Maffey, who left the military after 30 years in 2008. He leads a five-person team, according to contract documents.

Former House Speaker Todd Richardson, who is assisting in the state coronavirus response in his position as director of the state’s Medicaid program, is among those who are working closely with the company.

Parson’s chief operating officer Drew Erdmann also is involved in the state’s response, which has received mixed reviews.

The Springfield News-Leader, for example, reported Tuesday that the White House Coronavirus Task Force recommended Missouri issue a statewide mask mandate after noting “high levels” of transmission in close to half of the counties in the state.

But Parson has been adamant about leaving the use of masks to individuals, rather than a government dictate.

With the number of positive cases of COVID-19 continuing to rise, some lawmakers said the governor could have found a cheaper alternative than the ex-general’s company.

“He could have consulted with the General Assembly,” said Sen. Karla May, D-St. Louis.

Just as Missouri’s contract has drawn criticism, a similar agreement between the company and the city of Boston raised eyebrows, forcing the mayor to defend the decision.

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said his administration couldn’t follow the traditional public bidding process for hiring vendors and buying goods and services because of the urgency of responding to a growing health disaster, the Associated Press reported in July.

“This isn’t the typical no-bid contract,” he said. “This is where we had literally 10 days before coronavirus just exploded all over.”

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