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$5 Million South Gate City Contract Award Smacks of Pay to Play

 

September 11, 2021

BY BRIAN HEWS

Hews Media Group-Community News has learned that the South Gate City Council awarded a lucrative five-year transportation contract to Global Paratransit despite Global ranking third out of five in the City’s scoring system, documented complaints by residents against Global, and City staff’s recommendation to award the contract to another company.

In addition, Global was not the lowest bidder; combine that with the scoring system ranking and the council’s choice is a blatant violation of the state’s Public Contract Code.

Finally, an internet search reveals that Global Paratransit recently settled a lawsuit involving a Global driver rear-ending another car.  That same search reveals several other lawsuits filed in Superior Court against Global and its owners.

Despite all that, the City Council handed the contract to Global’s lobbyist, Marco Soto, who also works full-time for LA Yellow Cab CoOp, a company that also owns the infamous Fiesta Taxi.

The award smacks of pay-to-play, HMG-CN has been told that campaign finance reports show that Soto has made political contributions to some South Gate Councilmembers as well as contributing to non-profits or organizations of the Councilmembers’ preference.

The city used an agreed-upon scoring system to rank the proposals for companies that responded to the city’s Request for Proposal for the five-year contract.

The Companies that submitted bids and their respective scores were:

  • Bus.com $1,235,338, no score
  • Empire Transportation $1,057,449, score 169
  • Global Paratransit $1,009,504, score 184
  • Transportation Concepts $896,227, score 189
  • Express Transportation Services $745,075, score 136

Soto’s client, Global Paratransit, ranked 3rd out of the five applicants; quite surprising since Global has been the City’s transportation provider for over four years. Express was the lowest but was deficient in its overall score of 136.

City staff recommended Transportation Concepts after receiving the highest score of the five, and a responsible bid.

 

Staff report showing their recommendation to award Transportaion Concepts the contract.

 

Was the fix in?

The scoring committee was very questionable consisting of the City’s Interim Director of Parks & Recreation, the Acting Recreation Superintendent, and a City Customer Service Representative.

HMG-CN was told that the committee members “did not have the expertise needed to make an informed decision on high value and complex transportation contracts.”

A case in point; the committee only conducted reference checks for two out of the five bidders, Transportation Concepts and Global Paratransit, subsequently awarding each the maximum ten points

Contradicting their award of point  the committee subsequently gave Empire Transportation, whose references were not checked, the maximum ten.

Express Transportation? The committee acknowledged they did not contact their references, then, unlike Empire, gave Express only six points.

But there was an outstanding reference waiting for them that certainly would have garnered a ten.

Jennifer Vasquez, Maywood City Manager told HMG-CN, “The city of Maywood has not been contacted regarding a reference check for Express Transportation, but we issued a letter of reference on their management and operation of the city’s transit program. The company has complied, provided services during the pandemic, and I highly recommend Express for the contract.”

During the meeting, Soto was allowed to present on behalf of his client and immediately acknowledged what everybody knew about Global.

The City had documentation of complaints from residents and other deficiencies which were included in the staff report.

Soto acknowledged that Global “needed to work on several deficiencies including communication with the city staff, but that they were committed to providing great services to South Gate.”

Global also needed to sharpen their bid pencil; Global’s proposal was $5,047,520 for the five-year contract, compared to the staff recommended Transporation Concept’s bid of $4,481,000 and Express’ bid of 3,725,373, a savings of $556,000 and $1.3 million, respectfully.

Councilman Gil Hurtado expressed “concern” about transparency and the lack of information provided to City Councilmembers crucial to making an informed decision.

“When I received the agenda packet, I really wish I had more information because the only packet I received was for the company being recommended,” said Hurtado.  “It’s equivalent of asking me to tell you what I think of a movie I haven’t seen, based on what other people saw.”

Hurtado also had concerns with the rating system used to base the City’s decision of awarding the contract.

“Can we bring this back after we read the other proposals because based on what I see, I am not ready to make a decision.”

Councilwoman Denise Diaz echoed Hurtado’s sentiment about the lack of information on all bids received.

“I would appreciate more information; you can’t make an informed decision with what we have,” said Diaz.

That turned out to be lip-service.

When it was time to vote, all five councilmembers, Mayor Al Rios, Vice-Mayor Maria Avalos and Councilmembers Maria Davila, Hurtado and Diaz eschewed violations of the Public Contract Code and their staff’s own recommendation and voted to give Soto’s client the bloated contract.

Many residents are alleging pay-to-play and cite the campaign donations Soto gave to some councilmembers and the bidding process itself.

And they should; in the end, Global was awarded the contract despite not being the lowest bidder, ranking third of five in the City’s scoring system, and exhibiting substandard service during their current contract with South Gate.

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