SunPass: FDOT fines contractor $4.6 million, replaces tolling director

Gov. DeSantis said fees and penalties to customers will be suspended until June 1.
Published March 29, 2019|Updated March 29, 2019

The Florida Department of Transportation has replaced its tolling director and fined the contractor responsible for botching last year’s takeover of the SunPass system $4.6 million so far, the department said Friday.

In a statement, Gov. Ron DeSantis added he was also telling FDOT to keep waiving fees and penalties for motorists who had problems last year, when Conduent State & Local Solutions took over the state’s tolling system.

“Since I’ve been governor, I’ve heard the concerns from citizens and customers of SunPass and the hardships they’ve been facing related to their delayed bills and billing errors by the contractor, Conduent,” DeSantis said in a statement. “I’ve directed the Florida Department of Transportation to continue suspending fees and penalties until June 1st.”

FDOT’s new secretary, Kevin Thibault, said in a statement that he’s told the head of Florida’s Turnpike Enterprise to assess “maximum performance penalties” allowed under its contract with Conduent.

READ: Florida spent $3.6 million for a company to drop its SunPass bid. Is this normal?

That’s $4.6 million so far, Thibault said. He’s also told Conduent to add more people to its customer service centers.

“We are committed to fixing the issues related to Conduent’s performance and we will continue to hold them accountable,” Thibault said in a statement.

Thibault added that FDOT has made “multiple personnel changes,” including replacing its director of toll systems.

The statements from DeSantis are a further contrast from his predecessor, Rick Scott, who ordered an inspector general investigation into what went wrong last year but for months defended FDOT’s handling of the debacle.

Conduent, then known as Xerox, won the estimated half-billion-dollar contract to overhaul the state’s SunPass toll system in 2015, despite a track record of botching similar jobs in Florida and other states.

When Conduent started processing tolls last year, it quickly fell behind, leading to overbilling and a backlog of millions of unpaid tolls, angering motorists and lawmakers alike.

The deal has garnered scrutiny from state senators this session, who want answers about what went wrong and why FDOT paid $3.6 million to get one of Conduent’s competitors to drop its bid protest in 2015.

That unusual payment helped ensure that Conduent would win the contract.

Last year, as Scott was running for a U.S. Senate seat, it was revealed he was personally invested in Conduent by owning at least $5 million in shares in a hedge fund that was heavily invested in the New Jersey-based company.

Scott denied having anything to do with FDOT awarding Conduent the contract.