BY MICHAEL RICONDA
New City – Rockland County Legislators Frank Sparaco (R – Valley Cottage) and Ed Day (R – New City) called a press conference on March 6 to announce a unanimous resolution calling on the county executive and county attorney to comply with a recent court order demanding the execution of a contract with Brega Transportation Corp. for county transportation services.
According to Sparaco, the resolution effectively prevents further legal action on the part of the county executive by stripping funding from any further appeals, a decision which could end a protracted legal battle.
Sparaco also expressed a desire to introduce legislation in the legislature’s Rules Committee establishing an impeachment policy to prevent instances of executive overreach, though any such policies would not be pursued against Vanderhoef given that this is his last term as executive.
The move comes after Brega was found to be the lowest responsible bidder for the contract by a legislative majority in September 2012, hence bringing his bid into compliance with bidding requirements and allowing its acceptance.
After County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef vetoed the resolution in October, the legislature responded with an override. Vanderhoef, however, instructed Director of Purchasing Paul Brennan to cancel the Brega contract, a move which has been described by Sparaco as a procedurally-improper second veto, which undermines the legal structure of county government.
“When we overrode Scott Vanderhoef’s veto on this matter, that should have been the end of it,” Sparaco said. “For him to violate that is a violation of law. You cannot just disregard the legislative branch of government.
Day supported the legislature’s position by recounting language used by Judge Francis Nicolai of the state Supreme Court in the most recent of three rulings in Brega’s favor. Nicolai characterized Vanderhoef’s move against the override as “a rogue, unlawful, and illegal act” and directed Vanderhoef to comply with the judgment.
“We are saying enough to the further spending of taxpayer dollars on a matter that should be closed,” Day stated. “We are saying enough to any attempt to award this transportation contract to another firm when a bid from a local company, Brega Transport, is approximately $6 million less than the second lowest bidder.”
Though the legislature’s pull over the executive is limited, Sparaco and Day claimed the power of the legislature to appropriate legal funds and pointed to precedent for direction of the executive by the legislature in a recent case in Westchester.
Day went on to explain the bidding process itself, which he said was fraught with “many, many missteps” which seemed to be unfocused and subject to sudden change, though he was reassured of Brega’s ability to handle the contract after a visit to the future site of their new transportation facility.
Additional concerns about the process were expressed by Sparaco, who said particular requirements changed too often and speculated the stipulations were set in place to favor particular bidders while placing Brega at a disadvantage.
Richard Brega, the owner of Brega Transportation Corp., also appeared to thank the legislature for their continued support and criticized the slow process the company had to navigate to obtain the contract.
“We’ve continually put our best foot forward,” Brega said. “I built a new transit facility, spent $10.5 million of my own personal money to try to provide the best transportation services humanly possible to the ridership of Rockland County. It’s frustrating as can be, as you can all imagine, to go on three years through something like this when you are the lowest bidder.”
Update—Response from Rockland County
County Attorney Jeffrey Fortunato released the following statement:
“This is a matter of law and administration, I took an oath to uphold the law and the integrity of processes administered by the County. The Court has ruled incorrectly in two separate cases endangering the County’s procurement process. This process concerns more than just the bus contract, it has implications for every contract entered into by the County of Rockland. As to the bus contract, failure to uphold the process by which it is awarded, could result in the FTA refusing to provide funding. It is my duty to uphold the integrity of that process and I intend to do so.”