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Transit Advisor: Critique Led to Firing

Consultant tells an O.C. agency that criticism of a radio system led to a canceled contract.

June 14, 2005|Sara Lin | Times Staff Writer

The vice president of an engineering firm hired to monitor a problem-plagued radio system used in county buses told the Orange County Transportation Authority's board of directors Monday that his company was fired because it repeatedly voiced concerns about the $12.7-million communications system.

The assertions by Ian Telfer of Cinergy Innovations came in the wake of a county grand jury report, released last week, describing the state-of-the-art communications system as unreliable and fraught with other problems. The report also cited the perception by employees that complaining about the radio system would hurt their careers, something Telfer said was demonstrated by the abrupt cancellation of his firm's contract.

"Cinergy's role was to raise the flag whenever and wherever the new radio system implementation failed in any way to meet [contract] requirements," he said. Over the years, Telfer said, Cinergy repeatedly told OCTA the system was not working properly.

The firm's contract was terminated in August 2004, a month before OCTA accepted the radio system. Telfer said OCTA's "clear purpose was to eliminate all who would speak out about how the project was being grossly mismanaged and failing to meet its performance and other contractual requirements."

Agency Chief Executive Arthur T. Leahy took exception to that view, telling the board that he didn't agree with the allegations of intimidation.

"I've been reporting for three years the problems [with the radio system]," he said. "The criticisms indicated [in the report] were mild as compared to criticisms I have expressed to the board."

The grand jury report also noted that the system's quality control engineers were fired, the dispatch manager reassigned and a dispatcher reprimanded after voicing concerns regarding its efficacy.

The report asserted that the radio communications between drivers and dispatchers failed 15% to 24% of the time, leading to frustration and miscommunication.

County Supervisor Bill Campbell, chairman of the OCTA board, asked the staff to look into Telfer's assertions. A more detailed reply to the grand jury report is expected at a Transit, Planning and Operations Committee meeting this month.

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