Western Mass. Transit Authority Begins Own Probe of Insurance Bids

January 4, 2006

The Pioneer Valley Transit Authority in Springfield, Mass. has hired a special lawyer to lead an internal investigation of bidding practices that have come under federal scrutiny.

Attorney Jeffrey Kinder will be paid up to $10,000 and is expected to report to the agency’s board with his findings in about a month, PVTA chairman James St. Amand said.

Federal authorities said earlier that they are probing insurance contracts and deals the PVTA has with Hulmes Transportation Services of Belchertown, which provides transportation for disabled and elderly riders. Authorities have not commented on their specific concerns.

Investigators have singled out decisions made by PVTA director Gary Shepard, who remains in his position.

St. Amand said Kinder will focus his review of the transportation contracts.

“That will be the initial scope, and we’ll see what happens from there,” St. Amand said following a closed meeting of the PVTA board.

Shepard left the meeting without speaking with reporters.

“Until we hear otherwise, he’s our administrator,” St. Amand said of Shepard.

The government is also investigating a $115 million project the PVTA was involved in to redevelop Springfield’s empty Union Station into a major transportation hub.

A federal audit claims the PVTA inappropriately spent $3.3 million on the project.

The PVTA is one of the largest of the state’s 15 regional transit authorities. It oversees public transportation for 24 cities and towns in the Pioneer Valley and owns 190 buses and 120 vans. It contracts with outside companies to provide the drivers.

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