April 10, 2019

Dear Colleagues:

As president and one of two founding shareholders of Alta Vista Solutions, I feel it is important to communicate openly and transparently regarding our legal action against Caltrans. We started down the legal path with our eyes wide open while certainly realizing that nobody wins in a lawsuit, especially the small, disabled veteran-owned business that poked the bear in the nose. 

Overall, we are confident that our legal actions brought much needed attention to flaws and ambiguities in Caltrans’ procurement processes. We are also optimistic that Caltrans will make improvements to their process and ultimately do a better job creating a level playing field for businesses of all sizes.

So why did we do it?

Fundamental to the integrity of government and the public bidding process is an underlying belief that the process will be fair and the agency will act in good faith without abusing its discretion.

  • That simply didn’t happen in this situation and we called Caltrans on it.
  • Caltrans’ response surprised us. They didn’t want to talk to us and refused to respond to any of our requests for information that we filed through the California Public Records Act.
  • We knew that there was almost nothing for us to win here. State law didn’t even allow us to collect any damages.

We live in a world where far too many individuals and organizations abandon their ideals in the face of adversity – that is not who we are at Alta Vista!

I learned at West Point the importance of never settling for a half truth when the whole can be won. If my military service taught me anything, it was the importance of sticking to your ideals and choosing the harder right over the easier wrong.

Caltrans underestimated Alta Vista’s strength of mind and I suspect they assumed our little firm would just go away after they un-canceled this contract.

What was the lawsuit about?

  1. Caltrans initially canceled an inspection contract after discovering the selection process was biased and that their procedures were not followed. 
  2. Fourteen days later, Caltrans reversed direction and un-canceled a contract for the first time in its history. 
  3. Alta Vista sought a court order to force Caltrans to re-cancel the contract and re-advertise it.

How did the judge rule?

  1. The judge did not grant Alta Vista’s request for “discovery” (i.e. emails, testimony of others, etc.) and limited her review to only documents and evidence found in the Caltrans-generated administrative record.
  2. The judge decided not to overturn Caltrans’ decision to un-cancel the contract while recognizing that a selection panel member entered the process with a pre-determined bias to replace Alta Vista.
  3. The judge acknowledged the leeway state agencies have in selecting consultants and declined to rule on whether or not a pre-determined bias is sufficient for the court to overturn the award of a public contract.
  4. The judge rejected Alta Vista’s argument that un-canceling a contract was improper because there was nothing found that either permits or disallows it.

Principles over profits

We don’t have a beef with Caltrans. 

We have stood together in hard times before and we absolutely know that Caltrans, as a whole, is as committed to the values of integrity and transparency as Alta Vista.

We think this is a situation where the actions of a few are not indicative of the integrity of the institution as a whole.

However, while the decision for us to take legal action was a difficult one, it is a decision that we looked at as an act of service to preserve the credibility of an institution in which we have immensely enjoyed working with over the last decade.

While we are certainly disappointed with the outcome our top priority remains, as it has always been, providing the best services possible to our clients, including Caltrans. My commitment to all is that we are looking forward and we are focused on doing the right thing and ensuring our clients are successful and the public are well served.

Do Right (even when it hurts).

Patrick S. Lowry