IDOT may look at Mini-Bus records

Posted 9/16/99

“It is possible that we may have to take a look at the records,” said Peter Hallock, deputy dire…

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

“It is possible that we may have to take a look at the …

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IDOT may look at Mini-Bus records


“It is possible that we may have to take a look at the records,” said Peter Hallock, deputy dire…

By Mary Zielinski (free-lance)

“It is possible that we may have to take a look at the records,” said Peter Hallock, deputy director of the Air & Transit Division of the Iowa Department of Transportation, about the situation between the Washington County Mini-Bus and the East Central Iowa Council of Governments (EICOG).

Hallock, contacted last week, called the Mini Bus situation “..the most complicated issue I’m aware that we’ve (DOT) gotten pulled into.”

Hallock said he had just read the letter from Leonard Tindal, Washington County Mini-Bus, Inc. director, calling for an audit of the service’s records and operations, and wasn’t yet in a position to comment about it or give a decision. However, he acknowledged that an examination of the records may become necessary.

But, he stressed, he needed to talk with EICOG officials first.

Tindal’s request for the audit came after the August 27 meeting of the EICOG board at which Mary Rump, transportation planner with EICOG, asked the board to put the Washington County Mini-Bus on probation. The contract, which normally would have been for a year, should have been renewed July 1. Instead, it was extended only one quarter, to September 30, the day the EICOG board meets.

The move is the latest in a dispute that started more than a year ago after EICOG became concerned about possible illegal charter services and other non-compliance with the contract, said Doug Elliott, EICOG executive director.

Elliott said that the “information was accumulated as a result of some specific articles about Mini-Bus (generally, about its trips and services) and some anecdotal information provided.”

He added that Rump also obtained information “during an annual visit and spot checks to review the service and about how rides were recorded.”

However, at an August 19 meeting in Washington, Rump did not provide any specific details about possible inaccurate reporting or improper activities, although she was asked to do so by some of nearly 70 attending the meeting.

Instead, at that time she said the Mini-Bus had conducted 19.6 percent incidental trips in July (federal regulations permit up to 20 percent of total trips can be incidental), although Tindal said that, in total, the service’s incidental trips is less than 5 percent.

In his letter to Hallock, Tindal noted:

“As you know, under state and federal law, ‘incidental trips’ are limited to 20 percent of the total. I am certain we have never exceeded this number or violated the law in any way. But I have been repeatedly accused by Mary Rump….of exceeding ‘incidental trips’.

“Miss Rump has for months now been making many unsupported slanderous statements about Mini-Bus and me in a number of public meetings, Recently, for example, she told a large Washington audience that in a recent period Mini-Bus had conducted 24 percent ‘incidental trips’, exceeding the legal limit of 20 percent. When I later checked her figures I was able to advise her that she had misplaced the decimal, and in fact the correct figure is 2.4 percent, well within the 20 percent limit. Of course she never corrected her statement to the public or to her board.”

When asked about the 24 percent versus 2.4 percent figure Wednesday, Elliott said “no one knows where it came from,” stating it did not come from Rump.

Tindal also said he plans to resign his position with Mini-Bus (and originally had looked at July, 2000 as the date), but stressed that he is not leaving because of Rump’s allegations.

Rump, who assured residents August 19, that transportation service would continue in the county, said that a possible approach would be seeking bids for it. Elliott confirmed that that could be an approach, depending on the outcome of the September 30 meeting.

A key issue with renewing the Mini-Bus contract would be the Washington based service signing a contract “with additional conditions”, generally to provide further documentation about rides to see that the service is in compliance with the contract.

Does this mean it would be a different contract than with the other five counties? Elliott said “it would be similar.”

He said EICOG has consulted with legal counsel whose opinion was that meeting the additional terms would not be discriminatory.

He also said that the opinion was “recent” and did not date to the start of the dispute more than a year go.

Funds are received by the IDOT from both federal and state sources and distributed to the regional transit systems for administration. In this case, the regional system is EICOG who, in turn, has brokered the service to organzations such as Washington County Mini-Bus and Johnson County S.E.A.T.S. EICOG is one of only three in Iowa who does this; all others actually administer the service.

In the case of seeking bids, EICOG owns all the vehicles, so it would simply reassign them to whoever would get the bid, noted Elliott.