The owner of a transportation company the Elizabeth Forward School District recently filed a lawsuit against for breach of contract said the district isn’t telling the whole story.
The district filed an injunction on Thursday against Pennsylvania Coach Lines after, the district claims, the bus company breached their contract and are jeopardizing the transportation for thousands of students when school starts this week.
David Sunstein, president and owner of Pennsylvania Coach Lines, also known as PA Coach, said in a statement on Friday the district’s accusations are “both untruthful and inaccurate.”
Sunstein said the district failed to negotiate a new contract in good faith and in a timely fashion.
“We cannot account for the failure of the superintendent to negotiate in good faith and see to it that a fully written and integrated contract was executed in a timely fashion by the school district,” Sunstein said in the statement. “Despite many months of effort on our part beginning as early as March 2017, the district has been unable to reach an agreement beyond the contract which expired on June 30, 2019, with all duties fulfilled at that time.”
According to meeting and voting documents on the district’s website, the school board approved a new contract extending the end date of the transportation agreement with Pennsylvania Coach Lines to June 30, 2023. The agreement was approved Nov. 19, 2008 with an end date of June 30, 2019.
The district claims PA Coach hasn’t provided a legitimate explanation for its decision and, if left unchallenged, would result in nearly 2,350 students without district-provided transportation at the start of the school year.
Sunstein said the district also owed the company more than $1 million for past services as of last December.
“No reasons were ever given for the delay in payment, however our services continued unwaveringly,” he said. “Having no contract on August 2, 2019, we could no longer wait for the superintendent to act, and in an effort to clarify our position with the school board regarding the failure to reach agreement, we explained our intention to allocate our buses elsewhere.”
A frequently asked questions section on the district’s website said the district has “honored all financial obligations to Pennsylvania Coach Lines.”
“Over the past two weeks, EFSD has tried unsuccessfully to resolve this matter amicably with PA Coach and avoid litigation,” said Todd Keruskin, superintendent, in Thursday’s statement.
Sunstein continued to say they don’t undertake a multi-year, multi-million-dollar agreement without a signed contract for the benefit, protection and safety of everyone involved.
“This is not only a quality assurance of our business practice, it’s the requirement of the Pennsylvania School Code and the Auditor General of the Commonwealth which insist on these same safeguards,” he said. “I could not be more disappointed in the District’s actions.”
The district also said in the “frequently asked questions” section on its website they would delay the start of school if there is no resolution to the transportation issue. They are reviewing other options with other bus companies.
An e-mail sent to district to Keruskin for further comment Sunday afternoon wasn’t immediately returned.