A Senate committee on Wednesday wasted little time recommending the Florida Legislature confirm Kevin Thibault as the state’s next transportation secretary.
But Sen. Annette Taddeo said she still expects answers to a Friday Times/Herald story about the Florida Department of Transportation’s $3.6 million payoff to get a SunPass bidder to drop its bid.
The unusual payoff cleared the way for Conduent State & Local Solutions to secure an estimated $600 million contract with FDOT to process the state’s tolls. Conduent made a mess of it when it tried to take over last year, leading to overbilling and a massive backlog of unpaid tolls.
“I hope you get us some answers as to this payout of $3.6 million for the other bidding company — or losing company — to go away,” Taddeo, a Democrat from Miami, said. “I can tell you my constituents are not happy getting all these bills at once, then they hear that we paid $3.6 million out for a company to go away?”
Taddeo said she wanted to see where in the budget the money came from, and how the state can prevent it from happening in the future. She added, however, that she’d heard nothing but good things about Thibault.
“Our commitment is to find that out and get back to the questions that are being asked,” Thibault responded.
Although FDOT said the payoff wasn’t unusual, two former executives of the losing bidder, Cubic Transportation Systems, said they’d never before been paid to drop out of a bid protest.
Sen. Tom Lee, who has raised questions about the payout, thanked Thibault for being so open with lawmakers, which he called a “cultural change."
“I appreciate you being forthcoming with me and I look forward to continuing the dialogue,” the Thonotosassa Republican said.
“It’s all about partnerships,” Thibault responded. “In order to be successful, it’s all about working with partners, and you all are a very big part of that.”