At the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) board meeting on Wednesday night, an out-of-court hearing was held to determine whether the board would uphold or deny the protest petition from First Transit.
First Transit filed the bid protest on May 15 after a bidding process resulted in GTA deciding to approve a contract with Veolia, the company that has run the bus transit system in Greensboro since 2002. First Transit argued that the bid process had been, “arbitrary, capricious and wrongful.”
First Transit currently runs bus transit systems in over 250 cities, including Raleigh’s Wolfline at NC State.
Tom Terrell, the attorney representing First Transit, argued that the bid process was flawed. The selection committee of eight evaluated the contracts using a cumulative scoring process, so that even though five of the members of the selection committee scored First Transit higher, Veolia had the overall better cumulative score. First Transit contended that this was unfair.
First Transit accused the selection committee of being biased towards Veolia due to the City’s preexisting relationship with the contractor. James Dickens, the attorney representing GTA, denied this.
Even though First Transit submitted a less costly proposal than Veolia, the selection committee used what Dickens called “qualitative components” to determine which contract had the “best value”. First Transit contested this process as arbitrary and argued that the selection committee therefore did not choose the contract that presented the “best value.”
First Transit disputed the selection committee’s assessment while adding that it was irresponsible of the committee to choose a more costly contract when the GTA was in the midst of financial struggles.
Mike Fox represented Veolia and accused First Transit of being sore losers and lashing out at the GTA. In response to First Transit’s protest Fox said, “It’s an attack on your process because they weren’t chosen.”
Fox warned the board that upholding a protest bid such as this one could open the door for any other contractors to file a protest with the City just because they lost out on a bid.
Fox said, “If you go down this road then you’re setting up a terrible precedent.”
After all parties presented their case, GTA board members briefly discussed the matter. The board came to the conclusion that the real question at hand was whether or not the bid selection process had been fair.
Ultimately the board decided that they felt the bid selection process was good and that it had been fair. The board voted to deny the petition protest from First Transit. The only dissident vote came from Kristen Jeffers, a blogger for The Black Urbanist.
After the GTA board’s vote, First Transit was informed that they had three days to file an appeal to Greensboro’s City Council. If First Transit does not appeal the decision then the denial from the GTA board will be final. If First Transit does appeal, then City Council would be faced with the decision to go against a branch of their own city government or risk First Transit filing a lawsuit in response to an unfavorable decision.