CATS board rejects bids for program manager contract

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - Capital Area Transit System leaders have rejected all bids for a $1.5 million program manager contract.

Controversy has surrounded the bid process.  Four companies were looked at during the selection process and one, the engineering firm SJB Group, scored for points higher than another established transportation management group.

"There needs to be someone who is hired as a program manager who has specific experience in the area of transportation," one woman said during the public comment period.

At Tuesday's meeting of the CATS board meeting, board members were on the hot seat.  Just hours before, Mayor Kip Holden sent a letter urging metro council members to "take whatever action is necessary within your authority, including the removal of any CATS board members who are not acting in good faith to fulfill their commitment to the public.

Several CATS board members remarked at the meeting that they have no intention of resigning their positions.

Councilwoman C. Denise Marcelle was also at the meeting.  She told the board she will stand by them, unless someone shows her something that is unethical or illegal that members of the board have done.

"Everyday I still pass people waiting at inadequate shelters at odd hours, for long periods of time because they have to," said Revered Raymond Jetson.  He told the board they should make decisions with them in mind.

In a speech, board chairman Isaiah Marshall said board members were involved in the Request for Proposals process.  He said previous reports were that another board member, Councilman Ryan Heck had given him a message from President Pro-Tem Chandler Loupe to redo the RFP process.  Marshall says that is not at all the message he was given.

"The message relayed to me was to either resign or Councilman Loupe was going to open up a public investigation," Marshall said.

Marshall says he also spoke with Councilwoman Ronnie Edwards, and had agreed to defer the item on selecting a company at Tuesday's meeting.

"So at the appropriate time, I'm going to make a recommendation that we defer the item for several reasons.  One, to see if we have an independent review.  Two, to see if we need to reject all proposals and start the process all over again," Marshall said.

During the discussion of whether to defer the item or not, there was a bit of back and forth between Marshall and another board member, Jared Loftus.  Loftus questioned Marshall on several issues: How similar is this process to the one used in the past?  Who picked the committee members?

"The statement was that we're using the same process, yet we've just uncovered several things that were different in the process we've always used," Loftus said.  To which Marshall answered, "I didn't make the statement we were using the same process."

Board member Deborah Roe made a motion to 'reject all proposals and use the next 30 days, until the next board meeting, to tweak the process and RFP and re invite people to participate in submitting proposals'.  Eight of the nine board members agreed.

Board member Donna Collins-Lewis also made a recommendation that no board members be a part of the evaluation committee, to avoid any similar situations in the future.

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