A District of Columbia Superior Court judge denied a motion for a temporary restraining order this afternoon filed by a company challenging the city's $35 million contract with VeriFone Inc., to install new "smart" meters in taxis.
Following a hearing on Friday, Judge Laura Cordero ruled (PDF) today that the city could continue installing the meters even as administrative challenges surrounding the contract are still pending. Cordero found that the company challenging the contract and fighting to halt installation, Creative Mobile Technologies LLC (CMT), failed to prove they would suffer "irreparable harm."
CMT filed a challenge to the contract in July, but the Office of Contracting and Procurement made a determination later that month that installation plans could proceed in the interim. The company appealed that determination and is expecting a ruling by August 31, so they argued that the city shouldn't be allowed to begin installation until that issue is decided. Cordero found that even if they win on August 31, too few meters would be installed by then to pose irreparable harm.
CMT's lawyer, Reed Smith D.C. managing partner A. Scott Bolden said this afternoon that it was an "extremely disappointing decision, but that's the court's analysis and we have to accept that." A spokesman for the city's Office of the Attorney General could not immediately be reached for comment.
The new meters would allow riders to pay by credit card, among other things. The Office of Contracting and Procurement asked for bids to develop and install the meters in January and received proposals from several companies, including CMT.
CMT learned in July that it was no longer a contender for the contract. The company and another failed bidder, RideCharge Inc. (now called Taxi Magic) challenged the contract once it was awarded to VeriFone Inc.
Contracts are automatically stayed in the event of a challenge, but the city's chief procurement officer issued a determination in late July that installation could move forward despite the protest. As part of that determination, Linton had certified findings that the new meters were needed as soon as possible to protect public safety and welfare and to ensure the city's taxis were prepared for the uptick in visitors for the presidential inauguration in January.
CMT challenged that determination and the Contract Appeals Board said it would make a decision by August 31. Shortly after Mayor Vincent Gray (D) announced that installation was underway on August 22, CMT sued the city in Superior Court. The company claimed that as long as its challenge was pending, the city could not proceed.
In today's opinion, Cordero found that even if some meters were installed before August 31, there was no evidence that it would interfere with CMT's ability to pursue its administrative challenge to the contract. Plus, even if the company won, Cordero noted that there was no indication that CMT would be on the hook to pay to have the installed devices taken out.
According to a release from Gray's office, 6,500 taxis are expected to have the new meters installed within 90 days. In an interview late last week, D.C. Taxi Commission Chairman Ron Linton said that they expected to have at least 30 meters installed by the end of this week.