Palm Beach County Commissioner Vana blasts Palm Tran Connection allegations

Commissioner Shelley Vana

Vana

Palm Beach County Commissioner Shelley Vana went off at Tuesday’s commission meeting about  last week’s blistering report by the Palm Beach County Inspector General bout Palm Tran Connection.

The report managers altered, or directed dispatchers to alter, between 21,000 and 46,000 reports of when a rider was picked up or dropped off late in the past 14 months, making them “inaccurate and inflated” and allowing the agency to reach a goal of a 95 percent on-time record.

“We have concerns regarding this, and I talked about it at length on this commission for the last four or five years,” Vana told colleagues Tuesday. “I hope that now we will have some action taken and we will get to the bottom of what happened.”

Vana has been outspoken about problems with the Connection, a problem-plagued subsidiary of Palm Tran that provides call-ahead bus service for the elderly, disabled and ill.

Clinton Forbes, who came on as Palm Tran director in November, was at Tuesday’s meeting but did not speak. He’s said he intends to conduct an outside investigation of his own into the Connection.

Forbes (Richard Graulich/staff)

Forbes (Richard Graulich/staff)

Palm Tran Connection signed contracts in January 2015 with three companies for a combined $190 million to provide the service after reaching a settlement with its old vendor to end its contract. For years, the county had heard complaints of late service, rude drivers and unclean buses as Metro Mobility Management Group racked up $2.5 million in fines.

The on-time standard is used by Palm Tran executives in reports to both customers and the Palm Beach County Commission, and managers know a performance record below 95 percent could result in contractors being dumped and managers being penalized. A poor on-time performance cost Chuck Cohen, Palm Tran executive director for nearly a decade, a demotion in January 2014, and later led to a major overhaul of the Connection.