January 14, 2022 – Yesterday, Senator Marty Flynn and Representative Thom Welby drafted a letter – included below – in response to the Scranton School District’s new bus contract.
Superintendent Melissa McTiernan,
Last week, the Scranton School Board voted to award a five-year transportation contract to Krise Transportation. To say that the awarding of this contract is financially irresponsible would be an understatement. As reported by the Scranton Times, the increase in transportation costs will exceed $1 million dollars per year as a result of this contract, and it’s the taxpayers who will be left holding the bag. The school district says that Krise Transportation came in with the lowest bid and was the best offer they received. This is misleading, and it’s beginning to look like it’s simply not true.
Compare the proposal of Pete’s Garage, a local company which did not get the bid, to Krise Transportation, the Punxsutawney company which did. The school district initially wanted the bus companies to cover the cost of fuel. Pete’s Garage’s offer did; Krise’s did not. The school district, for whatever reason, decided this was fine. The school district wanted the winning bus company to provide a sufficient number of drivers. Krise agreed to no such terms. The school district, for whatever reason, decided this was fine. The school district initially wanted to hold the bus company responsible for any busses that arrive late; the agreement now makes the school district pay Krise for the extra time. The district, once again, and for whatever reason, decided this was fine. Every step of the way, the Scranton School Board mysteriously backed down from every reasonable request they made, and they gave the contract to a company who essentially told the school district how they were going to do things – separate from what was in the RFP.
The question, of course, is why? Why put the responsibility and the financial obligations on the people of Scranton? Why give in to this company’s every demand? There were clearly defined terms in the initial Request for Proposal, and numerous companies were more than happy to agree to them. Why, then, award the contract to Krise, who agreed to essentially none of them, and is going to charge us more in the process?
This contract agreement is a slap in the face of the taxpayers in the City of Scranton. Senator Flynn worked hard to obtain $1.8 million in funding for the school district to fix their tax structure. To this point, they have done nothing to help the taxpayers with this money. Every time news breaks about the Scranton School Board, it becomes more and more apparent that the school board, at best, doesn’t have a plan and, at worst, is irresponsible. We believe that the legal advice they have received is questionable, regarding the $1.8 million in state funds Senator Flynn recently secured, regarding the Scranton School District budget, and regarding this busing contract.
The advertised RFP included a clause that allows the school district to discard all of the bids if there were discrepancies, exceptions, or changing conditions from when it was written to when the bids are opened.
It is, in our opinion, absolutely irresponsible for this board – based on the discrepancies in the awarded contract from the published RFP – to be accepted with such a cavalier attitude. One reason given for awarding the bid with the discrepancies was that the rebid process would take two months – and the operator could need nine months to prepare for the new school year. We think any responsible operator can prepare a plan within six or seven months!
What’s more is that they feel they are above accountability. Questions to the school board were directed to Scranton School District solicitor John Audi. Questions to John Audi went unanswered.
We have some questions for solicitor John Audi ourselves. What is your legal opinion on why the $1.8 million was secured for the district and not used? Did you truly think the best thing to do for the city of Scranton was to make an executive decision to do nothing? What is your legal opinion on how, of the number of contract proposals you fielded, the best one was the one you settled on with Krise? Why did the school board not receive the lengthy contract until the day of the vote? Was that really enough time to read and grasp the finer details? This is unheard of in local and state government. Why was there no meeting open to the public to discuss? Why the secrecy?
The taxpayers depend on you to be up-front, yet these decisions are made in the shadows, in closed-door meetings that brazenly skirt the rules set forth by the Sunshine Act – zero transparency. This bussing contract is more of the same. It’s an egregious affront to the taxpayers and we demand answers from the district. Rest assured that we will not stop until we receive them.
There’s still time to do the right thing. We are requesting you re-open these talks before setting this school district down yet another ill-advised path. We’re happy to discuss this with you – in broad daylight – in a public meeting, where the people of Scranton can voice their opinions and concerns with this contract.
Senator Marty Flynn
Representative Thom Welby
CC: Tara Yanni