In 2011, CARRD became frustrated with the California High Speed Rail Authority’s unwillingness to comply with basic provisions of California’s open government laws, which were made part of the State Constitution in 2004. We sent this letter to the board. The board followed our recommendations, including the establishment of policies for complying with the Public Records Act as per State law, and we began to receive documents on a timely basis… until the beginning of this year.
There have been a series of requests that were routinely met in the past, such as the monthly reports produced by Parsons Brinckerhoff which are a specific deliverable in their contract, that began to be denied for reasons that we had already established with the Authority were not valid and not consistent with the Authority’s own policies.
Recently, we requested a number of documents regarding the bidding process. Significant changes to the process were made without board approval or even notification. Warranty provisions were changed from 7 years to 2 years only weeks before bids were due. The Authority’s CEO made statements in a letter to the Legislature which, at best, are misleading.
The Authority is contemplating the issuance of the first construction contract for a $68 billion project. Serious questions have been raised about the integrity of the bidding process and the unauthorized and improper exercise of authority by officials. Additional public scrutiny, not obfuscation, is called for in situations like these. This is why we have open government.
On April 18th, we requested the “Questions and Answers” that were provided to the bidders during the RFP process. “Questions and Answers” are a standard part of almost any RFP process that is conducted by a government entity, from small towns to the Federal government and are specifically made public DURING the process to ensure a level playing field for bidders. We have strongly suggested that these should be posted on the Authority’s website, along with the other RFP documents.
After first telling us that we would receive these records, the Authority changed their mind today. Not only do their actions violate the letter and spirit of the California Public Records Act, they appear to violate the provisions of the bidding process. Bidders were promised that questions and answers would be posted on the Authority’s website.
The Authority must post these on their website immediately. They should not include the bidders names but they should include the questioners assessment of how significant the issued raised is. This would allow the public to assess whether the claims made that changes were not material are credible.