Santa Clara VTA approves emergency paratransit contract amid FBI investigation of prior provider

The Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority approved a $12.5 million emergency contract with a new paratransit provider on Thursday hours after its previous contractor was served a search warrant by the FBI.
The VTA board unanimously approved the five-month contract with MV Transportation, a private Dallas, Texas-based firm, at its Thursday meeting at the agency's San Jose headquarters.
The former contractor, Outreach and Escort Inc., was served a search warrant by the FBI earlier Thursday. An FBI spokesman confirmed the search warrant was served at Outreach's offices, but didn't provide further details on the investigation.
The VTA was already phasing Outreach out as its paratransit provider. Outreach had been providing paratransit services to VTA since 1993 and the board asked for an audit of the organization in July 2015, Fernandez said.
When Outreach didn't provide all the requested documents for the audit and the ones that were submitted came in late, the board decided to terminate the contract with Outreach in June and is looking for a new contractor to take over the service, board chairwoman and Santa Clara County
Supervisor Cindy Chavez said.
The VTA board also filed a filed a lawsuit against Outreach alleging false claims and fraud.
The agency was in the middle of its 12-month transition period from the Milpitas-based Outreach, which continued to provide the paratransit service through MV Transportation, when the FBI served its warrant, VTA CEO Nuria Fernandez said.
Following the warrant service, the VTA decided to move to MV Transportation as its exclusive provider.
By the end of today, VTA expects to set up new phone and computer systems for MV Transportation employees who had been working under Outreach.
The transition has led to delays in responding to calls for the agency's paratransit service, VTA spokeswoman Stacey Hendler Ross said.
"These customers in particular are our highest priority because they're among the most vulnerable in our community," Hendler Ross said.
In addition to its 7,000 paratransit clients registered throughout the county, the VTA is also working to help an extra load of customers
Outreach had provided services to including the county and social service agencies, according to Hendler Ross.
"We're in a tough situation admittedly and we're working very hard," Hendler Ross said.
MV Transportation is also sending employees from Southern
California to Santa Clara County in assisting with the transition that's expected to smooth out in the next few days, the spokeswoman said.
Customers continue to receive the ride service, but may experience a delay in calls to confirm their reservation, set up a ride or ask questions, Hendler Ross said.
In its search for a new provider, the agency sent out a request for proposals for a new paratransit contractor that were due Thursday.
The current contract with MV Trnsportation can be extended if the agency doesn't select a new provider after five months, Hendler Ross said.
Anyone looking for more information on the paratransit service is asked to call the VTA customer service line at (408) 321-2300.