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Reliant suing CATS over paratransit contract

The Baton Rouge firm that lost its bid earlier this year to provide curb-to-curb bus service to the disabled is suing the Capital Area Transit System over whether it properly followed public bid laws.

In a suit filed in April in 19th Judicial District Court, Reliant Transportation Group, which lost its paratransit contract with CATS in February after 14 years to MV Transportation, alleges the transit agency violated state public bid law in several ways. Chief among them: A member of the CATS committee that evaluated the proposals, Ron Goldman, previously worked as a consultant for MV and therefore should have been disqualified for having “an apparent potential conflict of interest.”

The lawsuit goes on to allege that other members of the evaluation committee reported directly to Goldman in their daily duties so “could be unduly influenced in their decision making by Mr. Goldman.”

The suit also contends that “CATS employees contacted MV and requested additional documentation and clarification on their submission after the deadline had passed for making submissions,” which was apparently prohibited according to the Request for Proposals.

MV is a Texas-based company that had a consulting contract with CATS from 2013-2015 and is the former employer of CATS CEO Bill Deville. Since the paratransit contract was awarded and executed, MV has been providing bus service to the city’s disabled riders.

At CATS’ June board meeting, MV executive Bryan Basford reported that MV’s on-time percentage in May was 80%. He acknowledged the firm had initial glitches in providing paratransit service, but said those issued had been mostly resolved and that service continues to improve.

The paratransit contract dispute dates back to May 2017, when the CATS board began a months-long procurement process to rebid the contract, which had not been rebid for 14 years. Members of the evaluation committee unanimously recommended awarding the contract to MV based on scoring in several categories, including price. MV’s bid $6.9 million for the three-year deal, nearly $1 million less than Reliant.

In its suit, Reliant asks the court to throw out MV’s contract and also seeks unspecified damages. The court record does not show a response from MV’s attorneys.

In a statement, CATS spokesperson Amie McNaylor says the agency does not comment on “pending litigation without merit.” As for MV’s performance, she says there were some kinks the first few weeks regarding the call volume, on-time performance, and demand, but says “most of the issues are being resolved.”

Basford is expected to update the board at its monthly meeting Tuesday.

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