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High-speed rail (continued from page 3)

ity decided to go with the ultimate insider for the top staff position. State Sen. Doug LaMalfa is among the latter. As soon as Morales’ hiring was announced, the Republican senator released a statement noting the rail authority’s $200 million contract with Parsons Brinckerhoff and criticizing the rail authority’s choice for the top post. “The Rail Authority claims it con-

ducted a nation-wide search just to end up with an executive from its biggest contractor?� LaMalfa asked in a statement. “How can we expect this insider to provide an independent review of the project, when he helped write the plan that’s already doubled the cost to taxpayers? “Moving forward, how are we to know where the Authority stops and Parsons Brinckerhoff begins?� he added. Elizabeth Alexis, co-founder of the Palo Alto-based rail-watchdog group Californians Advocating Re-

CityView A round-up of

Palo Alto government action this week

City Council The council had no meetings this week.

City Council Finance Committee (May 29)

Fees: The committee approved a 3 percent increase in most municipal fees. Yes: Unanimous Budget: The committee tentatively approved the city manager’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2013. Yes: Unanimous

Planning and Transportation Commission (May 30)

Rail corridor: The commission discussed the Rail Corridor Task Force Study, approved the environmental analysis for the study and recommended integration of the report into the city’s Comprehensive Plan. Yes: Unanimous

Board of Education (May 31)

Brown Act: The board held a special meeting, with legal advisers on hand, to discuss the Ralph M. Brown Act and the California Public Records Act. Action: None

sponsible Rail Design, voiced a similar concern. Her group was among the first to criticize the rail authority’s ridership projections and cost estimates (the price tag for the system increased from about $43 billion two years ago to $98.1 billion earlier this year before coming down to the current level of $68 billion). Parsons Brinckerhoff, she said, was the primary agency responsible for the initial low-balling of the cost estimate. The fact that Morales served as a high-level executive for the rail authority’s highest-paid contractor should disqualify him from the position, she said. “It’s always been a major concern with this relationship. Who is running the show? Is it PB or is it the state of California?� Alexis told the Weekly. “Now, that’s an even more difficult question to answer.� Parsons Brinckerhoff’s management of the rail project also faced scrutiny from State Auditor Elaine Howle, who released an audit in April 2010 criticizing the highspeed-rail project for “lax contract management� and “weak oversight.� The report doesn’t name Parsons Brinckerhoff, but refers to the firm as “program manager.� It notes that the rail authority “is significantly understaffed� and “has delegated significant control to its contractors — especially the entity that manages the program.� The audit uncovered many instances in which the program manager provided inaccurate information to state officials. In her January follow-up to the

2010 report, Howle noted that the authority “relies on the Program Manager to provide accurate, consistent, and useful information in its monthly progress report.� “However, we found that these reports were often inaccurate and that at times the Program Manager appeared to misinform the Authority about the speed with which contractors for each region performed tasks.� Howle’s office first flagged these problems in 2010. In its follow-up this year, it learned that these problems still persist. Her audit uncovered more than “50 errors and inconsistencies of various types in three of the Program Manager’s monthly reports,� which were submitted in December 2010, June 2011 and July 2011. In some cases, Howle wrote, the program manager “altered dates to make it appear that the regional Jeff Morales contractors would perform work either more or less quickly than they estimated they could in their progress reports.� The program manager also changed the regional contractors’ estimated milestones and “percentage-of-progress� data. Of the 12 percentage-of-progress changes, Howle wrote, “three made it appear that the regional contractor

had completed more than it reported and nine made it appear that the regional contractor completed less than it reported in its progress report.� Howle wrote in the January report that while there are some valid reasons for the discrepancies, “the number and frequency of the changes we noted suggest that the Program Manager misinformed the Authority about the actual status and progress of the construction section.� Her follow-up report states that because the authority has delegated so much control of the project to its contractors, “it may not have the information necessary to make critical decisions about the program’s future.� The rail authority’s vacancy problem persists to this day. Of the 11 positions listed on the rail authority website’s “Executive Staff� directory, seven are vacant (the list does not include the CEO position). In announcing Morales’ hiring, Richard called the move “a giant step forward� for the rail project, for which voters approved a $9.95 billion bond in 2008. “This Board was deeply impressed by his extensive experience in large and complex transportation issues and projects on the local, state, federal and international levels,� Richard said in a statement. “He has a solid track record of creativity and innovation in the delivery of on-time, onbudget infrastructure projects.� N Staff Writer Gennady Sheyner can be emailed at gsheyner@

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Palo Alto Weekly 06.01.2012 - Section 1  
Palo Alto Weekly 06.01.2012 - Section 1  

Section 1 of the June 1, 2012 edition of the Palo Alto Weekly