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Favoritism in awarding state toll collection contract, company claims

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A company has filed a complaint claiming Florida transportation officials used favoritism in awarding a multimillion-dollar toll collection contract.

WFTV Channel 9 Eyewitness News in Orlando reports an administrative judge will take up the 28-page complaint from Accenture over the $600 million state contract that may not have gone to the best company to do the job. The contract was awarded in June to rival Xerox.

Belvin Perry, a former judge who is now a WFTV legal expert, said the allegations, if true, could have serious consequences.

“The whole thing seems to be unfair,” Perry told WFTV.com. “It’s covered with favoritism and it’s going to be an interesting decision by the administrative judge.”

At issue is the connection between Xerox employees and state officials in charge of the process.

Part of the complaint claims that Florida Department of Transportation employees overseeing contract negotiations – particularly the Florida Turnpike executive director — either previously employed, or were linked, to Xerox.

“You would not want someone who was part of a company rendering an opinion about that company. It just smacks of favoritism,” Perry said.

Earlier, WFTV exposed several issues that were later included in the Accenture complaint, such as Xerox’s failure to fully carry out the SunRail ticketing system. Also addressed is a seeming unwillingness by the FDOT to remain objective over SunRail performance highlights during the contract award process.

The purpose of the law is to make bids fair and objective, Perry added, not subjective as it seems to have happened in this case.

If an administrative judge finds the complaint has merit, the process could be forced to start again.

Phil Ammann is a St. Petersburg-based journalist and blogger. With more than three decades of writing, editing and management experience, Phil produced material for both print and online, in addition to founding HRNewsDaily.com. His broad range includes covering news, local government and culture reviews for Patch.com, technical articles and profiles for BetterRVing Magazine and advice columns for a metaphysical website, among others. Phil has served as a contributor and production manager for SaintPetersBlog since 2013. He lives in St. Pete with his wife, visual artist Margaret Juul and can be reached at phil@floridapolitics.com and on Twitter @PhilAmmann.

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