The Pinellas Suncoast Transit Authority has decided to re-issue its request for bus advertisement proposals following an official protest by Direct Media, one of the companies that lost out on the initial contract award. According to the PSTA’s CEO, Brad Miller, the protest and ultimate re-issue of the request for proposals stemmed from confusion during the procurement process.
“One of the issues that wasn’t clear […] was exactly […] how [the vying companies] were supposed to submit a [bid], given that we [the PSTA] were [in the midst] of changing our advertising policy to allow for alcohol and governmental ads.”
As the PSTA’s advertising policy is written now, neither governmental ads nor alcohol-related ads are permissible on the outsides of busses. Should that policy change, which seems likely, so too will the proposals.
“Next go-around, we’re going to make it crystal clear, by having [the companies vying for the job] give us multiple proposals. One with alcohol and one without. One with governmental ads, one without. So we’ll know exactly how much revenue we stand to potentially benefit from.”
As for Direct Media, its protest didn’t exactly abide by the bid protest procedure rules. It sent an e-mail to PSTA board members after finding out it had not won the bid, but before the PSTA announced who had, which Direct Media was not supposed to do.
“I do not want to be contacted prior to the award of a bid, during the selection process,” said Chairperson Bill Jonson. “They [Direct Media] could have been contacting us during the approval process of the bid, rather than lobbying us in advance of the selection.”
When asked by the board whether or not Direct Media would have another shot at the job, Miller, whose decision it is, responded by saying he “still hadn’t decided,” and went on to add that there’s a “rule in the bid protest procedure [which] prohibits [any company vying for the contract] from contacting PSTA board members.”
“There was a very specific reason for [that rule],” said Vice Chairperson Julie Bujalski. “It was because we got bids [in the past for a concrete contract] and ended up throwing them out because of all the lobbying that was going on. It was a multimillion-dollar thing. It was a mess. So we revamped our procurement process to avoid that and what was included with it was this no lobbying rule […] so that we could avoid bid protests in the future.”