Rockland County may now be well on its way to awarding a bus contract -- a process that has been deadlocked for two years -- after a state appellate court cleared the county Wednesday of any wrongdoing in its bidding.
Rockland County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef had gone back to the drawing board numerous times since the beginning of the process in an attempt to secure Federal Transit Administration funds, which would have been lost if inconsistencies were found.
"Finally, the county has been vindicated. We believed all along that the lower court was in error and were confident that the appellate court would rule in our favor because we carefully followed the law," Vanderhoef said in a statement. "Our overall goal has always been to secure a transportation contract with a responsive and responsible bidder that meets all the bid specifications, at the lowest cost for our transit riders."
Last year, State Supreme Court Justice Francis Nicolai ruled that the county's bidding process was "flawed" after Brega Transport Corp., based in Valley Cottage, was awarded the contract to operate the county's TOR and Tappan Zee Express buses.
The county then solicited new bids and another contract was to be issued by August 2012, prompting Brega to sue the county for discrimination against small companies. Growing impatient, the county Legislature voted again in the fall to award the five-year, $70 million contract to Brega -- whose bid came in more than $6 million less than the second-lowest bidder.
Amid the back-and-forth litigation, the Legislature pressed to halt county taxpayer money from going toward legal fees stemming from the case, which have amounted to some $200,000.
"The bottom line is that all that I have been hopeful for is that the resolution comes and it comes in an efficient manner that doesn't kill our taxpayers," said Legis. Edwin Day (R-New City). "I hope the matter goes forward without any more litigation."
The county's Law Department will be reviewing the decision and will advise Vanderhoef on what steps to take next for a new transportation contract.
Meanwhile, Burt Dorfman, legal counsel for Brega, filed a motion Tuesday to hold Vanderhoef -- along with Paul Brennan, the county's director of purchasing, and county attorneys -- in contempt of court for filing a March 6 appeal.
"My client is exploring all alternatives with respect to the pending motions and the decision," Dorfman told Newsday. "We consider this a victory for my client because Vanderhoef will be able to go forward with the award of the contract to him which he has promised to the Legislature and everyone else ... Let's see if he keeps his word."