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In contract dispute with Maryland, politically connected firm Blue Flame begins delivering ventilators

FedEx driver Chris Ramdeen delivers ventilators Thursday to the state of Maryland that the state ordered from Blue Flame Medical LLC. The shipment of 27 ventilators arrived at a warehouse in Sparrows Point.
FedEx driver Chris Ramdeen delivers ventilators Thursday to the state of Maryland that the state ordered from Blue Flame Medical LLC. The shipment of 27 ventilators arrived at a warehouse in Sparrows Point. (Lloyd Fox/Baltimore Sun)

Blue Flame Medical, the politically connected company under investigation for what state officials say was a failure to deliver much-needed supplies during the coronavirus pandemic, said Thursday it has begun delivering ventilators to the state of Maryland.

Former state Attorney General Doug Gansler, now a lawyer in private practice who is representing the company, said 27 ventilators were delivered to the Maryland Emergency Management Agency Thursday morning.

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That delivery is just a fraction of the 110 ventilators and 1.5 million masks the state ordered. But Gansler said the company is working on getting more supplies to state officials as soon as possible.

He said state officials now have a duty to accept the supplies.

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“With over 2,000 Marylanders already dead from the virus, it is a moral, ethical, and legal obligation,” Gansler said.

Nick Cavey, a spokesman for the Maryland Department of General Services, confirmed the delivery, but said state officials have not yet agreed to accept the supplies after they already terminated Blue Flame’s contract.

“We have received, but not accepted, a delivery of 27 ventilators pending legal deliberations,” Cavey wrote in an email. “At this time, we continue to work through the very concerning legal issues surrounding Blue Flame, which is the subject of separate federal, state, and congressional inquiries. We are awaiting more information from the company regarding the 1.55 million masks and remaining ventilators that the state ordered.”

Federal authorities have started an investigation into the company after Maryland officials say Blue Flame failed to supply millions of dollars worth of masks and ventilators, according to sources with knowledge of the probe.

Blue Flame officials have defended the firm, arguing Maryland cancelled the contract prematurely and the company will make good on the deal by June 30.

Blue Flame Medical LLC was founded in late March by a pair of political consultants with no experience in the medical field, Mike Gula and John Thomas.

The state signed a $12.5 million deal April 1 with Blue Flame Medical to provide the N95 masks and ventilators. State officials say the equipment was supposed to have shipped by April 14, according to documents provided by the state.

But Blue Flame has maintained it has until June 30 to fulfill the order. The state paid half the money upfront, and after the goods didn’t arrive, Maryland canceled the contract, state officials said.

Gov. Larry Hogan, a Republican, has asked Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, to investigate the company for “failure to perform and for potential misrepresentation.”

“It is unconscionable that anyone would try to exploit this pandemic for profit or for personal gain,” Hogan said during a news conference in Annapolis earlier this month.

The Hogan administration has awarded more than $341 million in quickly approved contracts during the crisis.

Blue Flame won a deal in Maryland when one of the company’s principals emailed an acquaintance in Hogan’s administration to make a pitch for a business deal, according to the governor’s office. Before that, state procurement officials “had no knowledge of or previous working relationship” with the Blue Flame founders, state officials say.

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The company filed a contract claim with the state last week, seeking to have the contract honored and the supplies accepted.

“Blue Flame brings this claim to fulfill its obligation to serve the people of Maryland during an unprecedented public health crisis ― a commitment Blue Flame has honored to the letter,” the claim states.

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