SALEM The state plans to nix a contract for a long-awaited review to assess the readiness of the Oregon Department of Transportation for a massive influx of funds next year.
The decision came after stakeholders and the Senate Minority Leader Ted Ferrioli, R-John Day, expressed concerns over the contractors extensive relationship with agency employees.
Consultant John L. Craig, who won the $350,000 contract to do the review, oversaw the agencys $1.3 billion outsourced bridge repair and replacement program for six years. He stepped down as program manager of Oregon Bridge Development Partners just 13 months ago. He was chosen over another contractor that had similar experience but offered to do the job for more than $100,000 less.
In an email to a review oversight committee, Tammy Baney, chairwoman of the Oregon Transportation Commission, wrote that delays in the contracting process had created an aggressive timeline that will not allow for a thorough review.
In addition, the vending process has not forwarded a contractor that is viewed as neutral, Baney said in an email, which was sent two days after an article noting Craig's ties to ODOT was published by the Pamplin Media/EO Media Capital Bureau. To have a cloud over this work before it even begins is unfortunate. At this time I believe it would not be prudent to proceed as I do not see the current process as conducive to a successful outcome.
The review oversight committee, made up of transportation commissioners and former lawmakers, has asked the Department of Administrative Services to explore options for hiring a different contractor to conduct the review. George Naughton, acting state chief operating officer and DAS director, said he would take steps to end the existing contract with Craig, which was signed around July 13. The contract allows either party to cancel the contract within 30 days, Naughton said.
The oversight committee, made up of transportation commissioners and former lawmakers, also plans to seek guidance from Gov. Kate Brown. The governor ordered the review in November to assuage lawmakers reservations over some of ODOTs past management decisions.
Lawmakers said they wanted an independent, third-party review to ensure that ODOT was operating efficiently before they consider passing a transportation package in 2017. That legislation one of Browns priorities as governor could hike gas taxes and fees on drivers and funnel hundreds of millions of dollars in additional funding to the agency.
One of the challenges in finding contractors to conduct the review is that some might be more interested in pursuing high dollar contracts that come out of the transportation package, Naughton said. Only two contractors - Craig and Pennsylvania-based Public Works - made proposals to conduct the review.
Its unclear whether the review could still be finished before the end of the six-month legislative session in 2017.
Lawmakers responsible for crafting a transportation package said Thursday that they plan to move forward with the transportation package, with or without the management review.
It would be helpful as we move through the session coming in 2017 that we have information regarding this work product, but at end of the day, I dont think its critical, said Rep. Caddy McKeown, D-Coos Bay, co-chairperson of the committee.
By Paris Achen
Portland Tribune Capital Bureau Reporter
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