The Valley’s top transit executive penned a confidential memo Wednesday saying it was time to dump the East Valley’s top bus operator because it couldn’t provide good service.
Yet on Friday morning, the same executive dashed off a letter to the company that backpedaled from any criticism. In fact, the executive noted MV Transportation’s service was so good that Valley Metro gave it performance bonuses in its last three months on the job.
So where’s the truth?
“Both memos are accurate,” said Susan Tierney, a Valley Metro spokeswoman.
MV officials blasted Valley Metro on Friday, the day the Tribune reported transit officials terminated the company’s contract. In particular, the company objected to claims in the confidential memo that MV altered mileage records, suffered from deteriorating management and may not be able to properly air-condition buses this summer.
An MV official said her bosses are outraged at getting trashed in one letter and praised in the next.
“If we’re so horrible, why were we receiving the contractual bonuses for doing a good job?” said MV spokeswoman Nikki Frenney. Each month’s bonus was about $17,000.
“Our reputation right now is being tarnished because they’re playing a little game where they send their board one thing and us another thing,” Frenney said.
California-based MV operated East Valley Dial-A-Ride and most bus routes until Friday night. Service is now in the hands of Maryland-based ATC/Connex, which was the runner-up in a bidding process that MV won in 2004. Transit officials said passengers shouldn’t see any disruption.
Valley Metro terminated MV’s contract Thursday after the two were unable to renegotiate a contract extension.
On Thursday, Valley Metro officials said the split was mutual and friendly. MV officials had believed that, too, Frenney said, until reading a newspaper account Friday of a critical memo from David Boggs, Valley Metro’s executive director.
“It has been painted as ‘MV didn’t do a good job,’ but in the letter that we have, it completely contradicts that,” Frenney said.
Boggs wrote a praise-filled letter to MV on Thursday. He sent another Friday, which disputed Tribune coverage and expanded on praise from the previous day.
“If we could have written the article, we would make it clear to readers that service quality for MV has improved,” Boggs told MV’s CEO in a Friday letter. Boggs said on-time performance was up and “complaints have never been lower.”
Valley Metro and MV agreed the two parted ways because the company wanted more money than the transit authority would pay. But Boggs didn’t cite money in his Wednesday confidential memo to various city officials that explained the split. It stated Valley Metro “management has determined that MV Transportation is unable to provide quality and consistent levels of service, therefore termination of their current provider contract with (Valley Metro) is required.”
Boggs wrote the agency lost confidence in the company’s leadership skills and that officials feared a repeat of air conditioning failures that plagued bus service last summer. He also wrote officials “found that MV has altered mileage figures on maintenance records.”
The Wednesday memo outlined talking points — which were critical of MV — that various city officials should use if contacted by the public.
“We want to avoid sending out a message that would be damaging for either Valley Metro or MV,” he wrote.
Boggs wasn’t available for comment Friday, Tierney said. She said he wrote the Wednesday memo to highlight important information to the agency’s board of directors. Friday’s positive letter was meant to counteract the “negative tone” in a newspaper account, she said.
“We have had positive experiences with MV and we thought as a result of the words that were used in the article, that it was important we said we had some positive results,” Tierney said.
Tierney said Valley Metro never meant to suggest MV intentionally altered mileage reports. Frenney wasn’t happy with that response.
“Why would you send a memo that inferred we falsified records and than send a letter today saying we didn’t alter records? Hello?” she said.
Frenney suggested a fight is possible over the contract, which could last as long as 10 years and total $200 million.