ST. PAUL, Minn. – There’s been another twist in the continuing legal battle over bus service in Rochester.
The Minnesota Supreme Court has reversed an Appeals Court ruling that the awarding of the city’s bus service contract was unfair, but says the issue must be decided again based on four alternative arguments raised by the plaintiff, Rochester City Lines.
Until 2012, Rochester City Lines operated the city’s fleet of buses. A change in federal rules then put the contract up for a competitive bid and it was won by a company called First Transit. Rochester City Lines sued, saying the process of awarding the bus service contract was biased against it. That case is still pending.
The bus service contract was put up for bid again in 2016 and was again awarded to First Transit. Rochester City Lines sued a second time, claiming the process was still biased against it. That lawsuit failed in District Court but the Minnesota Court of Appeals ruled that the appearance of bias had not been property considered, because several members of the 2016 committee that awarded the bus service contract also served on the same committee in 2012, and invalidated the awarding of the 2016 bus service contract to First Transit. An appeal was then made to the state Supreme Court.
In a ruling issued Wednesday, the Minnesota Supreme Court ruled that because Rochester City Lines never claimed the appearance of bias, only that the contract bidding process was actually biased, the Court of Appeals was wrong to invalidate the contract and reversed that decision.
However, Rochester City Lines did raise four other arguments related to the 2016 contract: That it was unfairly deprived of references, the bidding process did not credit it for past performance, the City of Rochester acted unfairly regarding First Transit’s bid, and the City of Rochester unfairly denied opportunities for small business. The state Supreme Court ruled those arguments had not been addressed by the Appeals Court and ordered a hearing on those allegations.
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