Vermont is paying more than $1 million for outside legal counsel to help negotiate a mammoth contract with the technology firm that is building its beleaguered online health exchange.
The state has paid the high-profile Boston law firm Mintz, Levin, Cohn, Ferris, Glovsky and Popeo $855,800 since 2012 to provide legal advice on its contract with CGI, the state's primary vendor for Vermont Health Connect. A contract signed June 9 is worth an additional $300,000, bringing the total to at least $1.15 million.
The state typically asks the Vermont Attorney General's Office to examine state contracts, officials said.
Mark Larson, commissioner of the Department of Vermont Health Access, said his agency needed additional resources to protect the interests of the state.
"The contract for a systems integrator is a very large contact," he added. "We brought in outside counsel for their expertise on IT projects, as well as to increase the resources available for legal representation."
About half of what will be paid to Mintz Levin has been billed since March 25, two weeks before the state announced a revised contract with CGI. The revised contract locks in $5 million in damages from the original contract, and allows for an additional $2 million in penalties going forward.
State officials have not said whether they will look to enforce the additional penalties, although CGI has already missed one deadline in the contract and the state has said it will likely miss the next.
Vermont has paid CGI more than $52 million of its $84 million contract. In January, Larson estimated the damages from missed deadlines at $26 million.
The state has spent a total of $72 million on Vermont Health Connect, all of which is being paid for through federal grants. The state has $171 million in grants earmarked to finish the project.