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In August, Gaithersburg company Challenger Transportation, which had previously provided the MetroAccess service from 1999 to 2013, sued WMATA, alleging a conflict of interest and favoritism in the bidding process for the 2013-2023 contract. The suit, made in Montgomery County Circuit Court, alleges that the eventual winner of the bid, the French company Veolia Transportation, won the bid despite demanding more money because a WMATA board member had deep ties to the company.
Records obtained by local ABC affiliate WJLA’s Watchdog Team “show one of the winning companies, Veolia Transportation, quoted WMATA $897.9 million for its driving services over that 10-year period. Challenger, on the other hand, bid $736.3 million, that’s $161.6 million less.” Veolia received 50 percent of the contract, while “First Transit, Inc. and Diamond Transportation received the other 35 and 15 percent of the contract, respectively” according to WJLA.
Challenger’s lawsuit says this malfeasance originates with WMATA board member Tom Downs. The lawsuit shows that Downs serves in his capacity with WMATA concurrently with a seat on Veolia North America’s Board of Directors, which the suit alleges is a flagrant conflict of interest.
WMATA refused to speak to WJLA on camera, but said in a statement to them that “The year-long process to award new MetroAccess service contracts was open, competitive and fair, following a robust public participation component. At the conclusion of the process, three winning vendors were selected based on safety, service reliability, customer focus and price. It is important to note that the Board [including Chairman Thomas Downs] has no formal role in awarding contracts.”
WMATA, in a letter to Challenger written in July, said that Challenger’s service was poor, and brought up the 2010 arrest of a Challenger driver accused of sexually assaulting a handicapped passenger during his regular shift.
Featured image from Wikipedia.org, used under Creative Commons License
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