Bus contracts discussed in secret

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By David Giuliani

The West Las Vegas school board took its discussion about bus contracts behind closed doors last week.

Almost half of the district’s bus drivers are under contract. The biggest contractor, which runs seven buses for the district, is RV Transportation, which is owned by state Rep. Richard Vigil, D-Ribera, officials said.

Vigil was in the audience for the board meeting. He waited while the board met behind closed doors until Loretta Salazar, the district’s transportation director, who left the executive session, spoke with the state lawmaker briefly. Vigil then left, and the closed meeting ended shortly afterward.

Vigil, who recently won another term as state representative, didn’t return a call for comment left on Tuesday.

West Superintendent Jim Abreu confirmed the following day that the discussion had been about bus contracts and referred further questions to Rachel King, the school district’s attorney.

King said the meeting was closed under an exception to the state Open Meetings Act that allows a governing body to meet in executive session for pending or threatened litigation.

King said that because of attorney-client privilege, she couldn’t reveal what was discussed during the closed session. She said there is no litigation pending against the district connected with the bus contracts. That would mean that there is threatened litigation.

Asked if more than one contractor had threatened litigation, King wouldn’t comment.

The board’s meeting agenda indicated the closed session was for limited personnel matters such as resignations, retirements and staff assignments, but nothing about discussions related to litigation.

King said she didn’t attend the closed session but that Abreu relayed her legal advice in connection with the bus contracts.

Abreu said the district strives to closely follow the state Open Meetings Act, which requires that nearly all public business be discussed in open meetings.

After the closed session, the board approved the contracts as part of the budget. Abreu said when gas prices were taken into account, all contract bus drivers will see a decline in income.

For instance, Abreu said Vigil’s firm would get an increase of 2 to 3 percent but that wouldn’t compensate him for all of the increase in gas prices.

Recently, a bus company in Moriarty that shuttled kids to and from school closed, in part, because of the high gas prices. Now the Moriarty district is scrambling to figure out a way to get students transportation for the next school year, which is a month and a half away.

Abreu said he feared the same may happen in Las Vegas. “I was worried some bus drivers might say, ‘See you later.’ They’re hurting. The price of gas is killing them,” he said.

He said West Las Vegas is asking the state to provide more money to districts to help with fuel costs.

Officials said the bus contracts were negotiated individually.

“We only had so much money available for bus contracts when you consider overhead,” said Jolene Peres, West’s business manager. She said the district used that budget as a basis for its negotiations.