Racing around in circles is fun for kids and works great for NASCAR, but when it comes to government, it can get silly. Look at what happened recently in Crook County.

The county was going to coordinate tobacco prevention money spent on Central Oregon. The county’s contract with the Oregon Health Authority was so opulently circular, Eric Blaine, assistant Crook County counsel wrote: “My advice is that the County not participate in this sort of arrangement without more warning and a better explanation from the participants (most of all OHA).”

It began with OHA. OHA had grant money that must be dedicated to anti-tobacco media campaigns. It subcontracted the use of $249,000 to PacificSource, the coordinated care organization that runs Medicaid in Central Oregon. PacificSource made an agreement to subcontract the work to Crook County. And then earlier this month, Crook’s county commissioners were presented an agreement to subcontract the money back to OHA. And then, OHA would subcontract with Coates Kokes, Inc., a Portland advertising company, to do the media campaign.

“Why OHA didn’t simply contract with Coates Kokes directly, instead of involving two additional entities, is just not apparent,” Blaine wrote in a memo to Crook County. He pointed out the county could be liable for breach of contract with PacificSource if OHA or Coates Kokes fails to perform.

So why did OHA do it this way? We asked OHA.

“This partnership is an example of state public health, local (county) public health, and Coordinated Care Organizations working together in service to local community goals and priorities,” OHA said, in part.

OHA is right. It is an example of an important partnership. You would think, though, that state government might also be working hard to find ways to do things more efficiently, instead of making more work for itself and all the hands the money passes through.

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