Vision Fleet seeks reopened contract for Indianapolis electric cars

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (May 13, 2015)-- Stung by the criticism of the deal by city county councilors and scrambling to answer media inquiries, the vendor that signed a $32 million contract to provide the City of Indianapolis with more than 400 electric and hybrid electric cars is seeking to renegotiate its agreement.

After talks with city officials Wednesday, Vision Fleet CEO Michael Brylawski issued a statement that read, "Vision Fleet wants to make it clear that we are open to...potentially making changes to that agreement to satisfy those concerns."

Council members told CBS4 News that Mayor Greg Ballard's administration did a possibly illegal end run-around the body's authority to approve a lease agreement by recasting the deal as a "Master Fleet Agreement" or rental contract.

CBS4 News has an original lease agreement, which we provided to council members, signed by city officials and Vision Fleet leadership, in February of 2014 that was superseded by a Master Fleet Agreement drawn up four months later, but backdated.

But that original lease agreement was never officially rescinded and, according to City County Council Chief Financial Officer Bart Brown, the City now has two agreements with Vision Fleet, which would be a potential violation of contract protocol and city ordinance.

“It appears that someone changed their mind on the type of agreement they wanted to have with Vision Fleet and it appears that they went back and revised it and tried to make it seem as if the Master Service Agreement was the original agreement,” said Brown after he met with council democrats in caucus Wednesday night. “We had a contract that was executed on time and then it appears that a new contract was signed later that was to replace the original contract, however, there is no evidence to show us that the original contract was ever rescinded.”

Brown told CBS4 News that he thinks the Ballard Administration wanted the Vision Fleet contract to take effect without council oversight or potential delays.

“We see this as a lease/rental agreement that needed to go through Purchasing and had approval through the council,” said Brown. “This was probably for expedience sake. They wanted to make sure that they did it to where nobody would interfere.”

Brown said that strategy, at the very least, is a violation of city procurement ordinances.

Councilman Frank Mascari thinks the Department of Public Works may have violated the law and has asked if the Marion County Prosecutor should investigate.

“I think they found their mistakes and then tried to backdate things to cover themselves,” said the Beech Grove democrat. “I don't know if it's even legal what they did.

“It makes it way more outrageous,” said Mascari. “The big thing is, they didn't rescind the first one, so that means, what lease are we actually dealing with? Are we dealing with the rental agreement or the lease agreement? That's the big question.”

CBS4 News contacted Mayor Ballard’s office repeatedly this week for comment on the Vision Fleet contracts.

A DPW spokesman referred our inquiries to the Officer of Corporation Counsel.

The City is accepting delivery of another 70 Chevy Volts this week.

IMPD officers have complained the cars are impractical and not large enough to accommodate police work, though many of the 200+ Volts on the road right now have been delivered to employees in other city departments.

Vision Fleet’s first and largest customer is Indianapolis and was handed the no-bid rental/services contract in 2014 after Mayor Ballard, a former U.S. Marine, committed Indianapolis to a municipal fleet less dependent on foreign oil for its operation.

Thursday morning Vision Fleet will close the bidding process among local car dealers to provide it with 2016 Ford Fusions.

IMPD officers have indicated that the Fusion may be a more workable alternative to the Volt, however, Vision Fleet will realize only a $4000 federal tax credit for the Ford as opposed to a $7500 federal tax credit for the Chevy.

Vision Fleet has pledged to funnel the full value of those credits back to the city of Indianapolis in its contract.

IMPD commanders and Chief Rick Hite have repeatedly expressed their opposition to the Volt as an assigned vehicle for non-patrol officers.

Despite DPW claims to the contrary, Public Safety Director Troy Riggs has said he was never consulted on the selection of the Volt for public safety employees.

Brown said council staff would immediately reach out to the mayor’s office in an effort to secure all contracts, emails and documents related to the Vision Fleet deal.

CBS4 News has copies of at least five versions of the two contracts.

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