Las Vegas Sun

October 18, 2017

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RTC makes move toward overturning controversial bus contract

The Regional Transportation Commission is taking steps to overturn a controversial bus contract worth about $83 million annually.

The commission’s board will vote on rescinding the contract at its Thursday meeting. A revised agenda was posted Monday morning on the commission’s website before the 9 a.m. deadline for agenda changes set by the state's open meeting law.

The RTC board approved the contract May 19, giving operation of the valley’s public bus system to First Transit, headquartered in the United Kingdom.

However, the 4-3 vote failed to meet the standard set by state law, which says boards made up of elected officials can only take action by a majority vote of all members, whether or not they are all present. Las Vegas City Councilwoman Lois Tarkanian was absent when the vote was taken.

Attorneys for the RTC and for First Transit said that particular state law did not apply to the RTC. However, attorneys for Veolia Transportation, which currently operates the bus system, disagreed, and the state Attorney General’s office was asked for an opinion on the issue.

The attorney general’s office responded Friday, saying the law did apply to the RTC and the board would need to rescind its vote by May 19 or face action by the state.

The agenda for the regular RTC meeting had already been posted when the letter from the attorney general came, so the commission had to act quickly to add the issue to the agenda so the board could take action before Monday morning's deadline.

The agenda item is worded to allow the board to rescind the vote, but there is no agenda item to revote on the contract.

“The RTC is obligated to follow the direction of the Attorney General’s Office at this time,” says the background information for the agenda, which is signed by Assistant General Manager M.J. Maynard.

First Transit has also filed a petition with the Nevada Supreme Court to intercede in the issue, however, the court hasn't taken action on the case.

The bus contract issue has divided the normally unanimous board, with representatives from Las Vegas and Clark County voting for Veolia and representatives of Henderson, Mesquite and Boulder City voting for First Transit.

County Commissioners Larry Brown and Chris Giunchigliani, and Las Vegas Councilman Steve Ross voted against the contract with First Transit. Henderson Councilwoman Debra March, Boulder City Mayor Roger Tobler, North Las Vegas Councilman Robert Eliason and Mesquite Councilman David Bennett voted for the contract.

Future decisions on the issue are likely to be influenced by the opinions of two new members of the board. Tarkanian was appointed just before the contract vote that she missed, and Mesquite City Councilman Kraig Hafen is expected to be appointed to the board at the Mesquite City Council meeting Tuesday to replace Bennett, who was term-limited out of office.

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