Bus contract dispute headed to court

The next time attorneys discuss the Regional Transportation Commission's contentious bus contract, they won't be in the commission chambers in front of drivers and mechanics but rather in a courtroom before a judge.

The eight-member RTC board voted unanimously Thursday to oppose a lawsuit filed by First Transit last month, meaning the case will go directly to District Court, where a hearing has been set for Sept. 16. The Regional Transportation Commission held an emergency meeting Thursday discuss its options and direct its attorneys on how to respond to the lawsuit.

"Our counsel is going to make a filing with the court in advance of the deadline (Tuesday ), and we'll just have to wait for the decision," said Jacob Snow, general manager of the transportation agency.

In its lawsuit, First Transit takes issue with the board rescinding a $600 million contract that it had initially awarded to the company. A divide between board members has caused a stalemate leaving Veolia Transportation, the incumbent bus system operator, with a temporary contract extension.

In May, commissioners voted 4-3 to award the contract to First Transit, whose bid over seven years was $50 million less than Veolia's proposal. Veolia filed a protest saying the vote was not legal because four votes does not constitute the majority on an eight-member board.

The attorney general's office agreed and directed the commission to rescind the vote. First Transit attorneys are seeking to have a judge intervene and award the contract to their company.

The lawsuit takes issue with the attorney general's ruling on the initial vote and commissioners who have publicly suggested the scoring system was not fair. The lawsuit said the board members never protested the scoring system during the request for proposals process.

Commissioners opted to file a response to the lawsuit out of fear the judge could usurp its authority by awarding the contract to First Transit.

Contact reporter Adrienne Packer at apacker@review journal.com or 702-387-2904.


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