Sunday, March 21, 2004


So much for airing SEPTA's dirty laundry...

On Friday, SEPTA reached a settlement with Kawasaki Rail Car in a lawsuit filed over the controversial awarding of the Silverliner V contract. Even the way word of this settlement was disseminated is raising eyebrows at 1234 Market.

The Inquirer reported this weekend that SEPTA reached a settlement, but the real reason depends on which story you believe.

Officially, SEPTA is claiming the ongoing fiscal crisis was responsible for the settlement and cancelling of the bid:

"It is well known that SEPTA is already in a severe budget crisis, and a
protracted legal challenge would cost precious money and time. It is my hope
and expectation that this rail car purchase can be quickly re-bid and we can
move forward with the acquisition of new rail cars for our customers," said
SEPTA Board Chairman, Pasquale T. Deon, Sr.
Press release

Right. And it's getting pretty cold in hell, too.

"In order to enhance competition, preserve the integrity of the
procurement process, and to ensure that SEPTA's interests are protected in
this important rail car purchase, I am rejecting the current proposals. The
re-bid should encourage more competition which, in the end, will benefit the
Fearless Leader, as quoted in the same press release

Another theory was that there were a long list of people at 1234 Market who weren't exactly thrilled having to appear in court to (gasp) tell the truth.

Kawasaki attorney Richard A. Sprague suggested the prospect that SEPTA officials, employees and others would be questioned prompted the agency to end the litigation.

"There are a lot of people who didn't want to be deposed," Sprague said. A SEPTA lawyer called Sprague's comment unfair.


SEPTA attorney Mark Gottlieb said the agency had "agreed on the deposition schedule long before this decision was made" and called Sprague's contention that the agency was avoiding the depositions an "unwarranted inference."

Another Kawasaki attorney, William H. Lamb, said that for SEPTA to end the litigation at such an early stage was "very unusual, highly unusual."

I have a strong suspicion that Don Pasquale, Fearless Leader, and a lot of high ranking Rotating Resumes - including AGM of Operations/Excuses Patrick Nowakowski, Treasurer Joseph Casey, and almost everyone involved in the entire procurement process - were going to be on that list. Of course, with the settlement, we may never know.

Had Kawasaki's lawsuit continued, Sprague was scheduled to depose 23 people. He would not disclose that list, but Kawasaki said it included Deon and [State GOP Boss Alan Paul] Novak, as well as key SEPTA engineers and professionals. Kawasaki has alleged that at least one key technical official knew nothing of the specification change until after it had occurred. Inquirer

Somehow, I don't think Don Pasquale was looking forward to being dragged through a deposition by one of the city's most powerful attorneys.

United Transit said in a written statement that, like Kawasaki, it would again bid for the work and said it "remains confident that it will be awarded the contract because it manufactures superior products at a better price." Inquirer

United Transit had a different take in a Daily News article on the same story:

UTS was also wearing a happy face. In a statement, the Korean company said that it was pleased that Kawasaki "failed in its attempt to manipulate the courts and intimidate public officials" and that it "remains confident" that it will still win the contract. Daily News

Okay, you call it "intimadation," Kawasaki (and, for that matter, most of the riding public) calls it "holding SEPTA accountable.

Naturally, the most vocal critics of SEPTA's (so-called) railroad operations, DVARP, had their say on these developments:

Don Nigro, president of the Delaware Valley Association of Rail Passengers, said: "Kawasaki had a great case. SEPTA had a losing battle ahead of them.

"Quite frankly, Kawasaki is very experienced with U.S. standards. [United Transit's] experience meeting Federal Railroad Administration requirements for these type of vehicles is zero."

DVARP's long-standing complaints regarding the entire process wasn't neccesarily related to the contract itself, but more towards how the specifications were determined and a general lack of ammenities found on other railroads (such as restrooms, which is a common feature on virtually every other railroad in the nation).

Adding to the intrigue is the way some SEPTA Board members found out about the settlement:

Board members learning of the settlement from reporters barraged Moore with angry calls, according to sources at the agency.

"It's a little embarrassing to have a reporter call me and tell me this," Michael O'Donoughue, one of 15 board members, said yesterday. "I don't know about democracy. It is a little strange."

With the way that Don Pasquale has been running SEPTA Board meetings - for that matter, the way he has been micro-managing SEPTA as Chester County Board member Karen Martynick alleged last year - it's not really that strange.

(On a related note, a planned "Letter of Understanding" between Bucks County and SEPTA relating to propsed route changes to four Frontier routes in Lower Bucks is signed on behalf of SEPTA not by Fearless Leader, but by Don Pasquale. Sounds like micro-managing to me, as one would suspect the General Manager would be the responsible signatory for such a document. And, yes, I plan to add details on the proposed route changes later this week; I just haven't had the time to do it yet.)

So, now, it's back to the drawing board for SEPTA, as new bids will be accepted. This means at least the Silverliner II and III cars which would be replaced as part of this procurement will be in service just a little bit longer.

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