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Mobility Transit files procurement lawsuit against Augusta

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The legal team representing Mobility Transit has filed suit in federal court alleging Augusta broke its procurement code and state open meeting laws when it terminated the bus company's contract and sought new bids from transit companies.

Filed by attorney Robert Mullins on behalf of Mobility, the suit alleges Augusta violated its procurement code when it rebid the service by allowing the selection committee knowledge of bidders' price proposals – by requiring a bid bond of 10 percent of the price.

The city hadn't been served with the suit early Tuesday, but City Administrator Fred Russell said a bid selection committee typically "doesn't see" the bid bonds before ranking proposals, as required by the city procurement code.

The suit goes on to allege the mayor and city commission broke open meetings law by deciding behind closed doors to terminate the contract with Mobility without "a realistic and tangible threat of legal action" as required under the exception for "pending and potential litigation" to allow discussion out of the public eye, making the decision null and void.

City General Counsel Andrew MacKenzie maintained Tuesday that any closed-door session during which Mobility's contract was discussed met Georgia legal requirements for closed meetings, but declined to comment further, citing pending and potential litigation.

The suit, which also alleges Commissioner Bill Lockett, city transit contract manager Sharon Dottery and possibly others "colluded and conspired" to interfere with the contract, seeks to void the city's termination of Mobility's contract and void the RFP process. The city recently extended Mobility's termination date to July 31.

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based Mobility has retained local counsel Fulcher Hagler LLP since the city notified the firm last year of its need to fix several contract deficiencies related to late payments to vendors, including employee insurance and utility companies; late reporting of accidents; and improper drug testing procedures.

This was the first action filed by Mullins, whose 2006 lawsuit on behalf of Thompson Building Wrecking Co. prompted a federal lawsuit enjoining the city's use of race- and gender-based criteria in contracting because it relied on disparity data more than 20 years old.

Mullins also recently penned an article for a national legal journal upholding Augusta as a model for the need for reform municipal procurement.

The firm also recently employed Augusta attorney Ben Allen to lobby city officials on behalf of its interests, MacKenzie confirmed.

Billed as a cost-savings way to continue offering public transit and paratransit service, the city commission voted to outsource its bus service to Mobility in 2011. The move was expected to save the city about $500,000 from transit's annual cost of $4 million. In the 22 months since Mobility started in August 2011, the city has paid $7.1 million for transit, according to the city finance office.

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GnipGnop 05/21/13 - 05:10 pm
They will settle out of court

they always do....

triscuit 05/21/13 - 10:55 pm
Geri Sams keeps her job

Geri Sams keeps her job because she is a black female, backed by all the black commissioners and for some reason, Fred Russell. Had she been white, she would have been fired for incompetence years ago.

Augusta resident
Augusta resident 05/22/13 - 03:36 am
All of the above

All of ya'll hit the nail on the head. Tax payers will suffer the most. They should sue the idiots, not the tax payers, we had nothing to do with it. Most of us don't even ride the bus. Get rid of the bus and the county run trash service.

nocnoc 05/22/13 - 07:13 am
It would do well for most of

It would do well for most of ARC to remember this important quote
"...2006 lawsuit on behalf of Thompson Building Wrecking Co. prompted a federal lawsuit enjoining the city's use of race- and gender-based criteria in contracting because it relied on disparity data more than 20 years old."

But we still have several downtown Commissioners screaming an hollering for Minority-Majority (M&M) set-aside awards instead following the Law. A Law that requires the best bidder be award the contract.

I guess some Downtown commissioners aren't use to the LAW, and even more unaccustomed to not getting a piece of Kickback Pie from their overcharging friends.

nocnoc 05/22/13 - 07:25 am

which lawyers are next in line to sue and defend Augusta?

I say, as often as we get sued we should create a full time
department with staff called the ARC Lawsuit & Arbitration Defense (ALAD) Dept.

Then require ALAD to counter-sue whenever legally allowed.

Right now this is a one way gravy train for local lawyers and businesses doing work for the county.

BTW: what is so hard about writing in a No Lawsuit clause into ARC contracts and require independent arbitration be used.

Then have the courts appointed the independent arbitrator?

It would save the ARC taxpayers millions.

Of course I only have 2 years of Basic Business College Law thats 30 years old to boot.

David Parker
David Parker 05/22/13 - 08:27 am
The devil in the details

There can't be full disclosure or significant scrutiny lest the whole house of cards collapses. Plus there would be too many displaced roaches scattering. One day, and that day may never come, this city's government will become a functional operation and legit as well.

MarinerMan 05/22/13 - 08:56 am
Same Problem, BUT There is a Difference

The Purchasing Dept for Columbia County has had the same general problem in the past. HOWEVER, Columbia County learned from their mistake, and fixed the problem. ARC for some reason continues to have problems, resulting in lawsuits, but after the first "Settlement", they have not fixed the problem, by cleaning house (Ms. Sams being shown the door). As a taxpayer, I don't understand the lack of outrage to the Commission and the Mayor. I guess as long as it doesn't affect Walton Way, things will stay quiet.

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