Written by Bob Tiffany
Over the last two weeks, the Hollister Free Lance has published
an extensive article, a city editor column, and an editorial on the
Hollister School District’s awarding of the five year bus contract
to Tiffany Transportation Services.
Over the last two weeks, the Hollister Free Lance has published an extensive article, a city editor column, and an editorial on the Hollister School District’s awarding of the five year bus contract to Tiffany Transportation Services. Purporting to present all of the facts, the article and follow-up commentaries have instead been incredibly slanted. Reading them, it would seem that the Free Lance was almost on a mission in support of the Gilroy Unified School District.

If the Free Lance wants to do a story on the school bus contract — albeit a very dated one, as the contract was awarded back in early June — that’s their prerogative. But they have an obligation to the reader and all parties involved to do it in an objective, balanced manner. Instead, their bias clearly shines through in a multitude of inaccuracies, misleading statements and innuendoes, and omissions – all of which combine to present an incomplete and unfair picture of the entire story. Let me list some specific instances:

1. Stating matter-of-factly that the Hollister School District could have saved $129,500 per year over the five year life of the contract is simply not accurate. Yes, it’s true that Gilroy Unified’s bid in the initial round of bidding was less than Tiffany Transportation’s. But that essentially applies to the first year only.

What was not addressed in the article is that the bus contract would have allowed for potentially significant increases by the contractor in years 2-5. Knowing the actual costs of transporting the children in Hollister as I do, I think it’s a strong possibility that Gilroy Unified would have been forced to come back to the Hollister School District with higher than normal rate increases in future years. These later increases could easily have wiped out the cost savings the Hollister School District might have received in the first year of the contract. The point is, no one – including the Free Lance – could have accurately extrapolated potential savings in year one to total savings for five years.

2. Furthermore, the paper chose to virtually ignore important issues pertaining to whether Gilroy Unified could have provided comparable service levels as Tiffany Transportation. Awarding a bid involves more than just price evaluation. It requires that the Hollister School District ensures that the transportation contractor will fully meet their busing needs.

The Hollister School District certainly knew what they were getting with Tiffany Transportation – we’ve been bussing their school children for years. But there were many obvious questions regarding Gilroy Unified’s potential services in Hollister. Just given the physical location of Gilroy Unified some 15-20 miles away, it’s not surprising that this would be the case.

It’s my understanding that that’s why the Hollister School District chose to go back out to bid a second time, with a new bid package – to more completely delineate the service levels required.

Once Gilroy Unified examined the second bid package, there is no way of knowing how they might have revised their thinking. To do a bit of speculation, isn’t it plausible that one of the reasons that Gilroy Unified bowed out of the bidding process was because they didn’t feel they could deliver the necessary service levels? And, if they had chosen to submit a second bid, who’s to say that their bid would have remained at the same price, given a more complete set of required service levels? A fair, truly in-depth article should have at least addressed these questions.

3. The paper spent a lot of time talking about “cooperative transportation agreements,” stating that Gilroy Unified wanted to “work together” with the Hollister School District to save money on transportation. This presents a fully misleading picture of the actual circumstances. Gilroy Unified bid on the contract, just as we did.

They certainly did not initially come to the Hollister School District with a cooperative transportation agreement proposal. If there was any talk of something like that between the districts, it came after the bids were opened, and almost certainly came much too late to be a realistic option for the Hollister 2005-2006 school year. It is my understanding that these kinds of agreements can often take a year or more to hammer out.

4. Furthermore, the fact that these cooperative transportation agreements do exist elsewhere in California does not mean that Gilroy Unified’s bid was legal, as the Free Lance has argued. For a public entity like Gilroy Unified, supported by taxpayer money, to bid directly against a private company such as Tiffany Transportation, is anything but common, and certainly does raise many legal and philosophical questions. The paper chose to simply ignore them.

5. Lastly, for the Free Lance to even imply that there might have been any improprieties committed by Tiffany Transportation in order to get the bid is offensive to me and everyone who’s associated with our company. Dropping names like the District Attorney and the Grand Jury to create doubt and innuendo in the reader’s mind is, frankly, unethical journalism.

The fact is that no one ever investigated the bid process because there was absolutely nothing to investigate – and the Free Lance, after months of research, certainly knew this to be the case. At least the paper, in their recent editorial, clarified their earlier remarks by stating that they that have “no reason to believe Tiffany Transportation Services did anything wrong to get the contract.” Why couldn’t they have made that clear in the initial article? Could it be that it made for a less interesting story?

In the end, I think we all would agree that a newspaper can wield enormous power in a small community such as Hollister. It can shape people’s opinions; it can even ruin people’s reputations. So while it has the duty to inform the public, it also has the obligation to do it in an objective and responsible way. This surely did not happen here.

Ironically, lost in all of this is the fact that the Hollister School District actually ended up with an extremely favorable contract. In the second round of bidding, Tiffany Transportation significantly underbid Durham School Services, one of the largest school bus carriers in the country. The Hollister School District is currently paying less for bus transportation this school year than last year – in spite of skyrocketing fuel prices.

Also forgotten is what I think is a pretty positive story: Tiffany Transportation and its dedicated drivers have been bussing Hollister’s school children for over 50 years. During this time, we have maintained an impeccable safety record, earning a multitude of industry safety awards – something that many parents would argue is of much greater importance, when it comes to bussing their children, than just who can provide the lowest cost.

Bob Tiffany is president of Tiffany Transportation Services.

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A staff member wrote, edited or posted this article, which may include information provided by one or more third parties.


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