While the court ruling issued this week only applies to VITA’s preliminary injunction, the Supreme Court also said WICO acted within its authority and VITA was not likely to succeed at trial. With the Supreme Court effectively saying VITA does not have a case, the appeal, while the lawsuit may not be dead yet, odds are not in VITA’s favor.
On Sept. 12, 2016, WICO awarded BEST Taxi the contract for the pier, after putting it out to bid in June. VITA sued, arguing it performed better on the initial criteria set up by WICO; that BEST did not have enough drivers to meet the contract and that the award was arbitrary and irrational. In October 2016, V.I. Superior Court denied VITA’s request for a preliminary injunction.
In a March 22 opinion, the V.I. Supreme Court found VITA “did not demonstrate a reasonable probability that the corporation acted in excess of its authority when it awarded the concession agreement, let alone that it acted in bad faith, fraudulently, or illegally.”
While owned by the government, WICO was set up as a corporation partly so that it could enter into contracts like a business and businesses should be given more latitude in deciding what is in the business’s interest than a purely government entity, the court determined.
“We agree with the Superior Court’s conclusion that the public interest will be best served by allowing WICO to exercise its business judgment and award BEST the concession agreement, and accordingly, we affirm the Superior Court’s conclusion that the ‘public interest’ factor weighs against enjoining WICO from contracting with BEST,” the justices wrote.
Addressing the question of whether BEST could provide enough cars, the justices pointed to testimony from BEST officials to the WICO Board that they have new drivers coming on every day, suggesting that some former VITA drivers may be hired by BEST.
Since nothing in the bid request “prohibited WICO from relying on BEST’s word as evidence, we are not convinced that WICO acted in an unauthorized manner,” they concluded.
In a summary of the decision, the justices said VITA “wholly failed to substantiate the claim that award of this concession agreement has eroded public confidence in the procurement process. Accordingly plaintiff failed to carry the burden of demonstrating a clear entitlement to an injunction prohibiting award of this concession, and the Superior Court’s October 26, 2016 order is affirmed.”
Justices Rhys Hodge and Ive Swan recused themselves from the case. Justice Maria Cabret and judges Robert Molloy and Douglas Brady served as designated justices in the case in their stead.