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Attorney general overturns RTC board’s vote on bus contract

Updated Friday, July 8, 2011 | 8:24 p.m.

The Regional Transportation Commission will have to reconsider its bus operations contract again after the Nevada attorney general ruled the commission’s approval of the controversial contract wasn’t legal.

The commission’s board voted 4-3 to approve the contract with First Transit in May, with one of the board’s members absent. Even though that was a majority of the members present, four votes are not a majority of the entire board, as required by state law.

Veolia Transportation, the company that operates the RTC’s bus system but put in a higher bid than First Transit in efforts to keep the contract, protested the decision, pointing out that state law requires all boards made up of elected officials to take action by a majority vote of all members, present or not.

Attorneys for the commission and First Transit said the RTC board didn’t have to meet that requirement, since the RTC wasn’t specifically included in the law and one board member, the director of the Nevada Transportation Department, is not elected.

The board voted in June on the protest filed by Veolia, but failed to get enough votes to either accept or reject the protest, which is essentially the same as rejecting it.

However, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, who is chairman of the RTC board, asked that the commission get an opinion from the attorney general’s office.

The RTC received an answer from the Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto’s office Friday afternoon, declaring the vote invalid, RTC spokeswoman Tracy Bower said.

The letter, addressed to Brown and signed by Senior Deputy Attorney General George Taylor, says the office disagrees with the RTC legal counsel’s interpretation of the law.

“Quite clearly and regardless of any other arguments, RTC’s 4-3 vote on May 19 failed to adhere to legislative intent,” the letter says.

In addition, the attorney general said that the RTC must rescind the vote by end of the statutory 60-day limitations period, which ends July 18 in order to avoid action by the office against the RTC.

The RTC said it will comply with the request, but it was not sure exactly what its process would be. “We’ll take appropriate action to comply with the AG’s opinion,” Bower said.

The board is scheduled to meet Thursday – four days before the deadline – but the issue isn’t currently on the posted agenda. It could be added, but the open meeting law would require the amended agenda to be posted by 9 a.m. Monday, Bower said.

In addition to the deadline to reverse the vote, the decision puts pressure on the commission to act quickly since the current contract expires in September.

Veolia has indicated it would work with the RTC to continue providing service until a new permanent contract is established, but that would likely require the RTC to cut bus service since its budget for next year is based on the lower cost contract with First Transit.

In the previous RTC meeting, Brown and others said it was likely that the contract would end up in court, with either First Transit or Veolia suing if the other was awarded the contract.

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