First an update: It appears that both the Senate and the Assembly are backing down from changes in the Public Records Act law that would have deterred public access to government records and documents. Thank you if you contacted your state representatives and the Governor. You, news agencies, advocates for open meetings, environmental groups across the state made the difference. Original article: http://www.examiner.com/article/legislature-endangering-public-access-is...
New suit filed:
A cross suit, officially a reverse validation complaint, was filed against the High-Speed Rail Authority by the Kings County Water District on June 18 2013 citing irregularities in the bid process for construction of the first 24-29 miles in the Merced to Fresno segment in the Central Valley. The contract, giving Tutor Perini the work, may be signed this month by High-Speed Rail Authority CEO Jeff Morales. This would authorize the design work to begin on the first section of the high-speed rail project regardless of this legal action.
This suit is in answer to the Authority’s validation complaint in which the Authority sued "the world" and asked the judge to assure investors that general obligation bonds issued by the state for the high-speed rail project are valid. An independent opinion by the Attorney General is also needed before bonds are sold.
The bidding process challenged:
As previously reported in the review of the other bidders, a different result would have occurred if the original and public process was followed. Outlined in the complaint, the board approved a process back in March 2012 that was supposed to drop the two contractors with the lowest technical scores. The remaining three bidders moved forward to a second stage that examined the proposal costs each submitted.
Each bidder was eligible to receive a maximum score of 30% for technical ability. The plans judged most proficient receiving the most points. The pricing component was worth 70%. The lowest cost proposal receiving the most points. The contract winner was determined as a result of the highest combined scores.
The Authority did not drop the contractors with the two lowest technical scores thereby advancing the contractor, Tutor Perini to the top of the heap. They had the lowest technical score but won because it was least costly.
Material changes challenged:
The complaint also challenged the Authority’s procedure to see if it had adequately examined whether or not the winner had material changes to their financial status since 2011, at which time they were cleared to bid on the work. Tutor Perini’s bond rating has dropped and involved in a lawsuit that has reached Nevada Supreme Court in which the owner says the entire building should to be scraped.
This newest filing outlines the fact that no board meeting was conducted in the public, which was required to change the formula, and it contends that the Chief Executive Officer did not have the authority to make such a material change without full board approval.
The timing challenged: no final railroad agreements:
In addition, in the request for proposal the Authority circulated, there was a notation that railroad agreements were expected to be signed by June 2012. No final agreements have been executed.
In the Grant Agreement with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) there is this language, “The Grantee may not obligate or expend any funds (federal, state or private) for final design and/or construction of the Project, or commence any part of the final design and/or construction for the Project, or any component of the Project, without receiving FRA’s prior written approval of the executed railroad agreement satisfying the requirements of this section."
Earlier this month at the June 6th board meeting, the Authority gave CEO Jeff Morales the authority to sign the contract with Tutor Perini. Attorney Ray Carlson, who represents the Kings County Water District who filed the complaint, does not believe the suit will effect the signing because “they are not in a position to go in for an injunction.“
Carlson said that the we may never know when the contract is actually signed since based on “the Authority’s prior history, things just happen. “ He added that it doesn’t appear that the “Authority wants to ratify it or make it available for public review and comment before it’s signed.” He says it’s a case of “things operating out in the shadows. “
He concludes, “We’re just trying to find out what’s going on, why things turned out the way they did and what was the authority for things turning out the way they did.” It is unsure when this cross-complaint will be heard. The High-Speed Rail Authority could file objections to this cross suit. The primary complaint, the Validation suit, will be heard at the end of September and this action may be heard much later.
Last update: The Prop 1A suit (Tos/Fukuda/Kings County) awaits a decision from Judge Michael Kenny on the suit that was heard May 31, 2013 which challenged the legality of the current high-speed rail plan. It could be as late as end of August before we know. http://www.examiner.com/article/prop-1a-suit-begins-and-challenges-calif...