Firm Wins City Contract Despite Legal Problems

TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Los Angeles Public Works Board awarded a $750-million contract Friday for bus shelters and street kiosks after the winning firm was cleared of allegations that it had failed to disclose past criminal violations.

The board selected Infinity Decaux, a joint venture of JCDecaux and Infinity Outdoor Inc., for the project and authorized its staff to negotiate a final contract, which requires approval of the Los Angeles City Council.

A rival bidder had alleged that Infinity Decaux should have disclosed to the city that Jean-Claude Decaux, the founder of JCDecaux, was sentenced in France last year for "conspiring to restrict free and equal access to a public bid process" involving a contract for school clocks.

A conviction is not final under French law until all appeals are exhausted and Decaux is still appealing, said Assistant City Atty. Christopher Westhoff, who investigated for the board.

"In essence, that French conviction does not exist under French law, and if it doesn't exist, their response on that bidder responsibility questionnaire is correct," Westhoff said.

He said that he would have preferred that Infinity Decaux had disclosed the case with the qualification that it was under appeal, but Westhoff concluded that the firm did not violate city bidding rules.

The French case probably should have been informally brought to the attention of city officials, but was not required to be disclosed officially in the bid documents, said Edward Wallace, an attorney for Decaux.

"We are very clear that we answered truthfully," Wallace said. "This is a company of very high integrity."

Under the proposal, Infinity Decaux will install bus shelters, self-cleaning toilets, kiosks and other street furnishings and will be able to sell advertising on the fixtures that is expected to bring in $750 million over the 20-year term of the contract.

The winning firm guaranteed to provide the city at least $150 million during the 20 years, a larger amount than Adshel offered.

"This board really does take very seriously our bidder responsibility policy," said Ellen Stein, president of the public works board. "We do expect and we do want the highest standards for people we do business with."

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