Senator calls for more hearings into SunPass contractor

By The News Service of Florida

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - Sen. Annette Taddeo, a Miami Democrat, wants more Senate hearings on the SunPass toll-collection system and its contractor, now that state transportation officials have said they won't renew its current contract.

Taddeo, who serves on the Senate Committee on Infrastructure and Security, asked Chairman Tom Lee to continue probing the problems of the SunPass system conversion, which last summer lasted months longer than planned.

“The magnitude of their multiple breakdowns cannot be ignored,” Taddeo wrote to Lee. “In order to get to the bottom of these problems and ensure that the same mistakes are not made again, we have an obligation to hold hearings and investigate how things went so wrong.”

On Wednesday, Department of Transportation Secretary Kevin Thibault said that New Jersey-based Conduent State & Local Solution’s contract regarding SunPass wouldn’t be renewed when it expires in three years.

Thibault’s comment came after the Tampa Bay Times outlined problems involving SunPass at Florida airports, such as late reimbursements for parking fees.

In March, state transportation officials imposed a $4.6 million fine on Conduent, and announced internal changes to how the state’s toll-collection system is managed. At the time, fines against the company had already reached $780,000, which included failing to meet an initial deadline to implement upgrades to the system. Conduent's $343 million contract includes running the system for the next three years.

During the 2019 legislative session that ended in May, state lawmakers told transportation officials to maintain a hard financial line against Conduent.

“It’s not just the monetary damages that take place,” Lee, Thonotosassa, said during a February hearing. “We are in a time when there is an unprecedented level of distrust in government and its ability to fill a basic pothole. And these kinds of things just give rise to that frustration and concern. They give a black eye to the department, a black eye to members of the Senate.”

Committee weeks in advance of the 2020 legislative session begin in September.

News Service of Florida