ATLANTIC CITY — A Boardwalk rolling chair company is suing another rolling chair company — and the city — after claiming that the city’s bidding process and specifications for Boardwalk tram service was flawed.
The city had authorized the Atlantic City Jitney Association to do a trial run for a tram service, which was done earlier this year. But the Jitney Association ended up the third-highest bidder for the contract at $12,000 a year, behind JJJN, L.L.C., of Brigantine, at $50,714, and B&B Parking Inc., of Atlantic City, at $126,000. JJJN and B&B both operate Boardwalk rolling chairs.
According to the bid specifications, the Boardwalk tram service would operate between Garden Pier and Albany Avenue between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m. There were no details as to when the service would begin.
In a complaint filed Tuesday in state Superior Court, Samuel Lashman, attorney for JJJN, claims that the city “has attempted to deliberately skirt or evade public bidding laws” in handling the Boardwalk tram contracts and was “misleading ... negligent and demonstrates bad faith.” It also describes it as “a farcical process.”
The complaint also alleges that the resolution allowing the initial trial run “was written to the exclusive benefit of the Atlantic City Jitney Association and no other entity was given advance notice of a trial.”
Lashman and JJJN are asking the court to enjoin and restrain the city from executing the contract with B&B and rebid the tram service.
Lashman, JJJN and B&B could not be reached for comment.
The city solicitor's office said that the city does not comment on ongoing litigation.
Among the lawsuit’s criticisms of the final bid process — the bid, for two years with an option for a third, was approved in a resolution at the Sept. 3 council meeting — was that city code mandates a minimum passenger capacity of 18 compared to the bid specification’s maximum of 15. In addition, the complaint contends that the city code mandates a fare of $2 while the jitney tram trial used a fare of $3.
“It is self-evident that the material terms of the specifications and ordinance conflict on the material terms and the specs are therefore invalid,” the complaint alleges.
The complaint’s second count alleges that the city amended its bid resolution to benefit the Jitney Association, with language that specified the trial run resolution “shall be amended to allow a Pilot Program as it describes to proceed only for Jitney trams.”
The complaint cites a New Jersey public contracts law that states “any specification which knowingly excludes prospective bidders by reason of the impossibility of performance, bidding or qualification by only one bidder ... shall be null and void.”
The Jitney Association, however, is not named as a defendant in the complaint.
Jitney Association President Tom Woodruff said that the group sold its tram equipment to B&B after it lost the contract.
“We sold the equipment after we lost the bid, and we’re mentioned in the lawsuit as if we had something to do with it,” Woodruff said.
For the trial run, “we were the only ones that had equipment. It was our idea. We were the only bidders ... and the city could have said ‘No more bids’ and we would have won. City Council went above and beyond trying to make sure it was a fair process.”
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