Rail board to reopen bidding on PR pact

The California High Speed Rail Authority has scrapped a staff recommendation to award a $9-million contract to a firm with close ties to Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and ordered the bidding process restarted.

Members of the board expressed concern over the original recommendation to give the contract to Mercury Public Affairs after The Times published an article detailing how the decision was made. It came from a staff panel of three, two of whom had close ties to Adam Mendelsohn, a Mercury partner who is the governor’s political advisor and former communications director. Board members declared the recommendation inadequate and demanded more information.

Curt Pringle, who chairs the rail board, sent members a memo Thursday saying the process “could have been more transparent” for selecting the winning firm. The process will begin from scratch, Pringle wrote, with a new recommendation likely by November.

Mendelsohn said Mercury would reapply: “We have always maintained we’re the most qualified firm . . . and nothing has changed as far as we’re concerned.”