The Greensboro City Council, at its Tuesday, Sept. 24 meeting, is scheduled – not for the first time – to fix the legal, procedural and financial mess the Greensboro Transit Authority (GTA) board has made of its main job – to hire, every three years, a company to run the Greensboro bus system.

Transdev Services Inc. now has the contract to run the bus system. The company’s last contract with the city ended June 30, 2017. The City Council, on June 20, 2017, voted to grant Transdev a $9 million six-month extension of the contract.

In December 2017, the City Council rescinded its June vote after a GTA board member reported that a member of the committee that recommended Transdev to the board was married to an employee of Transdev.

Federal regulations prohibit members of contract review boards from having such conflicts of interest.

The Dec. 19 City Council vote granted Transdev a one-year extension worth $18 million and announced a new request for proposals (RFP) for the three-year contract, now proposed to begin Jan. 1, 2019.

After the new RFPs, the GTA board, in an irregular and uninformed process, on August 2 recommended granting the contract to Keolis Transit Services LLC.

The resolution on the City Council’s agenda for Tuesday is to grant the three-year contract to Keolis.

Earlier in Tuesday’s meeting, however, the City Council will have to hold a hearing on an appeal by Transdev of the GTA bidding process.

Transdev on August 9, 2018, in a letter from attorney Nathan Duggins of the law firm Tuggle Duggins, challenged the GTA board’s recommendation of Keolis, calling it “arbitrary, capricious, wrongful and unreasonable” – the statutory requirement for such a protest.

In the letter Duggins accuses the GTA board of holding two illegal closed meetings during the process – one on March 27, 2018, when the GTA Board asked Transdev members to leave the room without voting to go into closed session, and one on June 26, 2018, when the board discussed the makeup of the recommendation committee.

City Councilmember Sharon Hightower, the City Council liaison to the GTA board, has grilled the board on the expense of the bidding process and the legal challenge, in addition to the contract extensions.

“That was concerning to me as well, but I wanted to know what additional costs we were expending,” Hightower said on Monday. “I wanted to know how much it cost to drag this out. I never did get an answer.”

The contested contract is not the GTA board’s first.

In 2014, the City Council voted to extend the city’s contract with Veolia Transportation Service to run the bus system, after first denying a protest by First Transit Inc.