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Public, bidders deserve answers on USPS pact

There are lots of questions about the process that led to awarding a giant federal government contract to a Wisconsin-based company rather than to a company with ties to the Mahoning Valley.

The U.S. Postal Service vehicle contract worth billions of dollars will be publicly funded, and Americans deserve to hear the answers.

It came to light this week that millions of dollars in Oshkosh Corp. stock was purchased one day before a division of the Wisconsin-based company was awarded the contract to build the U.S. Postal Service’s next-gen delivery vehicles.

The stock’s price rose significantly one day before the contract was announced, raising questions about whether details of the announcement were leaked before the public announcement.

Postmaster Louis DeJoy announced Feb. 23 that Oshkosh Defense won the 10-year, 165,000-vehicle postal service contract worth up to $6 billion, beating out Cincinnati-based electric-truck manufacturer Workhorse Group Inc. Had the Ohio company received the contract, it would have meant good news for Lordstown Motors Corp. because Workhorse Group holds a 10 percent stake in the local company. If that would have happened, the Lordstown factory was likely the location to manufacture the Workhorse delivery trucks.

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Howland, this week asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to investigate a large purchase worth more than $54 million of Oshkosh Corp. stock one day before the announcement was made awarding the postal service contract to the Oshkosh-based company.

Ryan is right to call for answers, and we urge the SEC to act quickly to probe the stock purchase.

But the questions don’t stop there.

Additionally, Ryan’s request comes about a week after he, U.S. Rep. Marcy Kaptur, D-Toledo, and U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, wrote to President Joe Biden, urging him to halt the contract. In that case, the trio was seeking a review of whether inappropriate political influence factored in the award and whether the contract is consistent with Biden’s call to electrify the U.S. government’s fleet of vehicles.

DeJoy previously told a House committee the new postal truck fleet would be 10 percent electric. The remaining vehicles would be equipped with fuel-efficient internal combustion engines, according to the postal service.

Also last week, Workhorse met with postal service representatives to get more information why the company was not selected.

Good.

Any time a public contract — particularly one of this volume — is awarded, the bidders, as well as the public, should get answers about how the decision was made. Workhorse CEO Duane Hughes said the meeting with the postal service officials was the first step in what’s expected to be a prolonged process to explore options and perhaps further action related to the company’s bid.

The company has retained legal and corporate advisory firms, including Akin Gump Straus Hauer & Feld LLP and Mound Cotton Wollan & Greengrass LLP, “to identify our options and pursue them effectively,” according to Hughes.

For now, it appears Workhorse and Lordstown Motors Corp. have lost out on this critically important contract. But before any further steps are made in carrying out the pact, the USPS owes the bidders and the public answers.

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