According to John Leopoldo writing in New City Patch, the Rockland County Transportation Department was without a Transit Administrator since Bill Schule left about a year ago, Mr Vanderhoef was still the county executive at the time and he left the department “rudderless” by not picking a new administrator. Ms. Sue Cerra, who was in the Transportation Department when Day took office, now holds the position.
In the June 25, 2014 edition of the Journal News we learned that Tom Vanderbeek, an appointee of former County Executive C. Scott Vanderhoef who oversaw the transition to the new bus operator, Brega, has now resigned to “seek other opportunities“. Vanderbeek was at the helm last year when the county changed operators for two of its bus services — Tappan ZEExpress and Transport of Rockland — amid great controversy and legal action. Brega Transport Corp., of Valley Cottage, is in the first year of a controversial five-year $70 million contract. According to Leopoldo, Mr Vanderbeek leaving his post as Commissioner for the Planning and Transportation Department is another “dagger to the heart of Transport Of Rockland; never mind no “rudder”, the captain of the ship just left the building”.
But there is another view about what has been happening to county positions in the past six months. There has been an approximately 40% change-out of the County appointees since Ed Day became the County Executive. Those being let go are departing quietly and without embarrassment. Many in certain county jobs are coming to understand that they are not going to be part of the new team and in the majority of these cases, Day appears not to be hiring anyone to replace those whom he considers to be holding patronage jobs.
Vanderbeek’s department is said to have had an $800K shortfall directly attributable to the recent fare increases. Further, the relationship between County Transportation and Brega Transport is reported by insiders to have deteriorated to the detriment of the public. To date Mr. Vanderbeek has remained silent as to the reason for his departure except for the usual platitudes that someone in his situation usually offer.
However if changes are occurring in the county’s transportation department, is all well at Brega Transport? Richard Brega is the owner of Brega Transport and Brega DOT Maintenance; these two companies have about $75,000,000 in County contracts and should not be confused with Peter Brega Inc which is a school bus company in Rockland County that has been in business for over 60 yrs and has a highly distinguished reputation.
Brega Transport won a 5 year ‘low bid’ contract from the Rockland County Legislature and took over the operation of Transport of Rockland and Tappan Zee Express from Coach USA on November 2, 2013. According to the Rockland County Times Brega, his employees, family members and friends made numerous and repetitive donations to Democrat Ilan Schoenberger who was vying to be the Democratic candidate for County Executive against Day. The donations of approximately $55,000 were reported in the Rockland County Times in 2013. Campaign filing reports show that during the months of April and May 2013, eight employee and family members of Richard Brega gave the same $4,000 contribution.
Questions continue to be raised about Richard Brega’s ability to handle this contract and what has been happening since Brega took over. There is concern that Brega can not properly run a fleet of the size and scope of Rockland’s Public Transportation system and whether he can maintain the contractual relationships that Rockland Transit (Coach USA) had with the employees when Brega took over operation of the company.
In articles in New City Patch, the Journal News and the Rockland County Times we read that on March 14th the Union representing the drivers of Brega Transport notified the county of Rockland that it will be necessary to take Brega to arbitration. The Union was notified that Brega Transport Corp. had represented to the County that it was committed to full compliance with all federal and state laws. Yet Brega’s possible failure to comply with “all laws” has now placed the County in jeopardy of additional financial distress. Ninety members of the union were without health insurance for months, while only some were given the expensive option to receive coverage through COBRA with Brega Transport paying half the cost.
John Leopoldo writing in New City Patch stated: “As far as progress all I have seen so far is a bus burned to the ground, drivers that still do not have healthcare, and a 4 year old left for hours on a bus.
Whether Mr. Vanderbeek was the captain of the ship from the county perspective, or just another of the 100+ patronage employees that CSEA President P.T. Thomas claimed were employed in the county and which County Legislator Murphy confirmed existed, remains to be seen.
But there are also questions about the captaincy of Brega Transport and how the County is going to ensure that this contract is performed as it was bid and that the citizens and taxpayers have a transportation system that is free of problems and free of any additional costs to them.