Florida Politics

Miami state Sen. Annette Taddeo requests hearing on SunPass problems

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State Sen. Annette Taddeo is asking for legislative hearings to investigate why a company so badly botched its takeover of SunPass tolls last year.

On Friday, the Miami Democrat wrote to Sen. Tom Lee, a Thonotosassa Republican who chairs the Infrastructure and Security Committee, to schedule and hold hearings on the issue, which has led to headaches for motorists and airport officials alike. Lee said in a text message that he’d received her letter, but he didn’t immediately say whether he’d take up her request.

Lee said in a text message that he appreciated her letter and called her a “strong advocate” for his committee’s oversight of the issue, but he stopped short of agreeing to investigative hearings.

An inspector general report into the debacle is due by the end of the summer, and Lee said he planned on asking state transportation officials to brief his committee about it.

“The current administration is not responsible for the events of the past, but this a $300m contract with a vendor who has failed us miserably,” Lee wrote. “They may be politically connect[ed], but their failure to perform has been an embarrassment to our state and an inconvenience to Sunpass customers.”

He added, “We should all be held accountable for how seriously we deal with the economic and reputational damage this vendor has caused.”

New Jersey-based Conduent State & Local Solutions has had numerous problems since it took over processing the state’s tolls last year. And on Wednesday, the Department of Transportation said it wasn’t renewing the second half of its estimated $600 million contract with Conduent.

“The problems involving Sunpass and Conduent are well known — including reports of contractual breaches, mismanagement, oversight issues, billing issues, customer data safety, and other reported problems,” Taddeo wrote to Lee. “We must perform our oversight function as Senators and ensure that any problems with FDOT, SunPass, and Conduent are brought into the sunshine, so that these problems do not happen again.”

While the vast majority of lawmakers have been silent about the SunPass problems, Taddeo and Lee have been some of the loudest critics.

The Herald/Times reported during the session that Conduent won the contract under a cloud of suspicion, with two competing companies filing protests. In a highly unusual move, transportation officials paid one of the companies $3.6 million to drop its protest.

After the story ran, Lee sponsored a bill that requires the Department of Transportation to better disclose such settlements. The provision passed.

The state inspector general is currently investigating what went wrong, and Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said this week that he expects the report by the end of the summer.