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Electronic Code of Federal Regulations

e-CFR data is current as of November 13, 2019

Title 49Subtitle APart 26 → Subpart E


Title 49: Transportation
PART 26—PARTICIPATION BY DISADVANTAGED BUSINESS ENTERPRISES IN DEPARTMENT OF TRANSPORTATION FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE PROGRAMS


Subpart E—Certification Procedures


Contents
§26.81   What are the requirements for Unified Certification Programs?
§26.83   What procedures do recipients follow in making certification decisions?
§26.85   Interstate certification.
§26.86   What rules govern recipients' denials of initial requests for certification?
§26.87   What procedures does a recipient use to remove a DBE's eligibility?
§26.88   Summary suspension of certification.
§26.89   What is the process for certification appeals to the Department of Transportation?
§26.91   What actions do recipients take following DOT certification appeal decisions?

§26.81   What are the requirements for Unified Certification Programs?

(a) You and all other DOT recipients in your state must participate in a Unified Certification Program (UCP).

(1) Within three years of March 4, 1999, you and the other recipients in your state must sign an agreement establishing the UCP for that state and submit the agreement to the Secretary for approval. The Secretary may, on the basis of extenuating circumstances shown by the recipients in the state, extend this deadline for no more than one additional year.

(2) The agreement must provide for the establishment of a UCP meeting all the requirements of this section. The agreement must specify that the UCP will follow all certification procedures and standards of this part, on the same basis as recipients; that the UCP shall cooperate fully with oversight, review, and monitoring activities of DOT and its operating administrations; and that the UCP shall implement DOT directives and guidance concerning certification matters. The agreement shall also commit recipients to ensuring that the UCP has sufficient resources and expertise to carry out the requirements of this part. The agreement shall include an implementation schedule ensuring that the UCP is fully operational no later than 18 months following the approval of the agreement by the Secretary.

(3) Subject to approval by the Secretary, the UCP in each state may take any form acceptable to the recipients in that state.

(4) The Secretary shall review the UCP and approve it, disapprove it, or remand it to the recipients in the state for revisions. A complete agreement which is not disapproved or remanded within 180 days of its receipt is deemed to be accepted.

(5) If you and the other recipients in your state fail to meet the deadlines set forth in this paragraph (a), you shall have the opportunity to make an explanation to the Secretary why a deadline could not be met and why meeting the deadline was beyond your control. If you fail to make such an explanation, or the explanation does not justify the failure to meet the deadline, the Secretary shall direct you to complete the required action by a date certain. If you and the other recipients fail to carry out this direction in a timely manner, you are collectively in noncompliance with this part.

(b) The UCP shall make all certification decisions on behalf of all DOT recipients in the state with respect to participation in the DOT DBE Program.

(1) Certification decisions by the UCP shall be binding on all DOT recipients within the state.

(2) The UCP shall provide “one-stop shopping” to applicants for certification, such that an applicant is required to apply only once for a DBE certification that will be honored by all recipients in the state.

(3) All obligations of recipients with respect to certification and nondiscrimination must be carried out by UCPs, and recipients may use only UCPs that comply with the certification and nondiscrimination requirements of this part.

(c) All certifications by UCPs shall be pre-certifications; i.e., certifications that have been made final before the due date for bids or offers on a contract on which a firm seeks to participate as a DBE.

(d) A UCP is not required to process an application for certification from a firm having its principal place of business outside the state if the firm is not certified by the UCP in the state in which it maintains its principal place of business. The “home state” UCP shall share its information and documents concerning the firm with other UCPs that are considering the firm's application.

(e) Subject to DOT approval as provided in this section, the recipients in two or more states may form a regional UCP. UCPs may also enter into written reciprocity agreements with other UCPs. Such an agreement shall outline the specific responsibilities of each participant. A UCP may accept the certification of any other UCP or DOT recipient.

(f) Pending the establishment of UCPs meeting the requirements of this section, you may enter into agreements with other recipients, on a regional or inter-jurisdictional basis, to perform certification functions required by this part. You may also grant reciprocity to other recipient's certification decisions.

(g) Each UCP shall maintain a unified DBE directory containing, for all firms certified by the UCP (including those from other states certified under the provisions of this part), the information required by §26.31. The UCP shall make the directory available to the public electronically, on the internet, as well as in print. The UCP shall update the electronic version of the directory by including additions, deletions, and other changes as soon as they are made and shall revise the print version of the Directory at least once a year.

(h) Except as otherwise specified in this section, all provisions of this subpart and subpart D of this part pertaining to recipients also apply to UCPs.

[64 FR 5126, Feb. 2, 1999, as amended at 76 FR 5100, Jan. 28, 2011]

§26.83   What procedures do recipients follow in making certification decisions?

(a) You must ensure that only firms certified as eligible DBEs under this section participate as DBEs in your program.

(b) You must determine the eligibility of firms as DBEs consistent with the standards of subpart D of this part. When a UCP is formed, the UCP must meet all the requirements of subpart D of this part and this subpart that recipients are required to meet.

(c)(1) You must take all the following steps in determining whether a DBE firm meets the standards of subpart D of this part:

(i) Perform an on-site visit to the firm's principal place of business. You must interview the principal officers and review their résumés and/or work histories. You may interview key personnel of the firm if necessary. You must also perform an on-site visit to job sites if there are such sites on which the firm is working at the time of the eligibility investigation in your jurisdiction or local area. You may rely upon the site visit report of any other recipient with respect to a firm applying for certification;

(ii) Analyze documentation related to the legal structure, ownership, and control of the applicant firm. This includes, but is not limited to, Articles of Incorporation/Organization; corporate by-laws or operating agreements; organizational, annual and board/member meeting records; stock ledgers and certificates; and State-issued Certificates of Good Standing

(iii) Analyze the bonding and financial capacity of the firm; lease and loan agreements; bank account signature cards;

(iv) Determine the work history of the firm, including contracts it has received, work it has completed; and payroll records;

(v) Obtain a statement from the firm of the type of work it prefers to perform as part of the DBE program and its preferred locations for performing the work, if any.

(vi) Obtain or compile a list of the equipment owned by or available to the firm and the licenses the firm and its key personnel possess to perform the work it seeks to do as part of the DBE program;

(vii) Obtain complete Federal income tax returns (or requests for extensions) filed by the firm, its affiliates, and the socially and economically disadvantaged owners for the last 3 years. A complete return includes all forms, schedules, and statements filed with the Internal Revenue Service.

(viii) Require potential DBEs to complete and submit an appropriate application form, except as otherwise provided in §26.85 of this part.

(2) You must use the application form provided in Appendix F to this part without change or revision. However, you may provide in your DBE program, with the written approval of the concerned operating administration, for supplementing the form by requesting specified additional information not inconsistent with this part.

(3) You must make sure that the applicant attests to the accuracy and truthfulness of the information on the application form. This shall be done either in the form of an affidavit sworn to by the applicant before a person who is authorized by State law to administer oaths or in the form of an unsworn declaration executed under penalty of perjury of the laws of the United States.

(4) You must review all information on the form prior to making a decision about the eligibility of the firm. You may request clarification of information contained in the application at any time in the application process.

(d) When another recipient, in connection with its consideration of the eligibility of a firm, makes a written request for certification information you have obtained about that firm (e.g., including application materials or the report of a site visit, if you have made one to the firm), you must promptly make the information available to the other recipient.

(e) [Reserved]

(f) Subject to the approval of the concerned operating administration as part of your DBE program, you may impose a reasonable application fee for certification. Fee waivers shall be made in appropriate cases.

(g) You must safeguard from disclosure to unauthorized persons information gathered as part of the certification process that may reasonably be regarded as proprietary or other confidential business information, consistent with applicable Federal, state, and local law.

(h)(1) Once you have certified a DBE, it shall remain certified until and unless you have removed its certification, in whole or in part, through the procedures of §26.87 of this part, except as provided in §26.67(b)(1) of this part.

(2) You may not require DBEs to reapply for certification or undergo a recertification process. However, you may conduct a certification review of a certified DBE firm, including a new on-site review, if appropriate in light of changed circumstances (e.g., of the kind requiring notice under paragraph (i) of this section or relating to suspension of certification under §26.88), a complaint, or other information concerning the firm's eligibility. If information comes to your attention that leads you to question the firm's eligibility, you may conduct an on-site review on an unannounced basis, at the firm's offices and job sites.

(i) If you are a DBE, you must inform the recipient or UCP in writing of any change in circumstances affecting your ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, or control requirements of this part or any material change in the information provided in your application form.

(1) Changes in management responsibility among members of a limited liability company are covered by this requirement.

(2) You must attach supporting documentation describing in detail the nature of such changes.

(3) The notice must take the form of an affidavit sworn to by the applicant before a person who is authorized by state law to administer oaths or of an unsworn declaration executed under penalty of perjury of the laws of the United States. You must provide the written notification within 30 days of the occurrence of the change. If you fail to make timely notification of such a change, you will be deemed to have failed to cooperate under §26.109(c).

(j) If you are a DBE, you must provide to the recipient, every year on the anniversary of the date of your certification, an affidavit sworn to by the firm's owners before a person who is authorized by State law to administer oaths or an unsworn declaration executed under penalty of perjury of the laws of the United States. This affidavit must affirm that there have been no changes in the firm's circumstances affecting its ability to meet size, disadvantaged status, ownership, or control requirements of this part or any material changes in the information provided in its application form, except for changes about which you have notified the recipient under paragraph (i) of this section. The affidavit shall specifically affirm that your firm continues to meet SBA business size criteria and the overall gross receipts cap of this part, documenting this affirmation with supporting documentation of your firm's size and gross receipts (e.g., submission of Federal tax returns). If you fail to provide this affidavit in a timely manner, you will be deemed to have failed to cooperate under §26.109(c).

(k) If you are a recipient, you must make decisions on applications for certification within 90 days of receiving from the applicant firm all information required under this part. You may extend this time period once, for no more than an additional 60 days, upon written notice to the firm, explaining fully and specifically the reasons for the extension. You may establish a different time frame in your DBE program, upon a showing that this time frame is not feasible, and subject to the approval of the concerned operating administration. Your failure to make a decision by the applicable deadline under this paragraph is deemed a constructive denial of the application, on the basis of which the firm may appeal to DOT under §26.89.

(l) As a recipient or UCP, you must advise each applicant within 30 days from your receipt of the application whether the application is complete and suitable for evaluation and, if not, what additional information or action is required.

(m) Except as otherwise provided in this paragraph, if an applicant for DBE certification withdraws its application before you have issued a decision on the application, the applicant can resubmit the application at any time. As a recipient or UCP, you may not apply the waiting period provided under §26.86(c) of this part before allowing the applicant to resubmit its application. However, you may place the reapplication at the “end of the line,” behind other applications that have been made since the firm's previous application was withdrawn. You may also apply the waiting period provided under §26.86(c) of this part to a firm that has established a pattern of frequently withdrawing applications before you make a decision.

[64 FR 5126, Feb. 2, 1999, as amended at 68 FR 35555, June 16, 2003; 76 FR 5100, Jan. 28, 2011; 79 FR 59598, Oct. 2, 2014]

§26.85   Interstate certification.

(a) This section applies with respect to any firm that is currently certified in its home state.

(b) When a firm currently certified in its home state (“State A”) applies to another State (“State B”) for DBE certification, State B may, at its discretion, accept State A's certification and certify the firm, without further procedures.

(1) To obtain certification in this manner, the firm must provide to State B a copy of its certification notice from State A.

(2) Before certifying the firm, State B must confirm that the firm has a current valid certification from State A. State B can do so by reviewing State A's electronic directory or obtaining written confirmation from State A.

(c) In any situation in which State B chooses not to accept State A's certification of a firm as provided in paragraph (b) of this section, as the applicant firm you must provide the information in paragraphs (c)(1) through (4) of this section to State B.

(1) You must provide to State B a complete copy of the application form, all supporting documents, and any other information you have submitted to State A or any other state related to your firm's certification. This includes affidavits of no change (see §26.83(j)) and any notices of changes (see §26.83(i)) that you have submitted to State A, as well as any correspondence you have had with State A's UCP or any other recipient concerning your application or status as a DBE firm.

(2) You must also provide to State B any notices or correspondence from states other than State A relating to your status as an applicant or certified DBE in those states. For example, if you have been denied certification or decertified in State C, or subject to a decertification action there, you must inform State B of this fact and provide all documentation concerning this action to State B.

(3) If you have filed a certification appeal with DOT (see §26.89), you must inform State B of the fact and provide your letter of appeal and DOT's response to State B.

(4) You must submit an affidavit sworn to by the firm's owners before a person who is authorized by State law to administer oaths or an unsworn declaration executed under penalty of perjury of the laws of the United States.

(i) This affidavit must affirm that you have submitted all the information required by 49 CFR 26.85(c) and the information is complete and, in the case of the information required by §26.85(c)(1), is an identical copy of the information submitted to State A.

(ii) If the on-site report from State A supporting your certification in State A is more than three years old, as of the date of your application to State B, State B may require that your affidavit also affirm that the facts in the on-site report remain true and correct.

(d) As State B, when you receive from an applicant firm all the information required by paragraph (c) of this section, you must take the following actions:

(1) Within seven days contact State A and request a copy of the site visit review report for the firm (see §26.83(c)(1)), any updates to the site visit review, and any evaluation of the firm based on the site visit. As State A, you must transmit this information to State B within seven days of receiving the request. A pattern by State B of not making such requests in a timely manner or by “State A” or any other State of not complying with such requests in a timely manner is noncompliance with this Part.

(2) Determine whether there is good cause to believe that State A's certification of the firm is erroneous or should not apply in your State. Reasons for making such a determination may include the following:

(i) Evidence that State A's certification was obtained by fraud;

(ii) New information, not available to State A at the time of its certification, showing that the firm does not meet all eligibility criteria;

(iii) State A's certification was factually erroneous or was inconsistent with the requirements of this part;

(iv) The State law of State B requires a result different from that of the State law of State A.

(v) The information provided by the applicant firm did not meet the requirements of paragraph (c) of this section.

(3) If, as State B, unless you have determined that there is good cause to believe that State A's certification is erroneous or should not apply in your State, you must, no later than 60 days from the date on which you received from the applicant firm all the information required by paragraph (c) of this section, send to the applicant firm a notice that it is certified and place the firm on your directory of certified firms.

(4) If, as State B, you have determined that there is good cause to believe that State A's certification is erroneous or should not apply in your State, you must, no later than 60 days from the date on which you received from the applicant firm all the information required by paragraph (c) of this section, send to the applicant firm a notice stating the reasons for your determination.

(i) This notice must state with particularity the specific reasons why State B believes that the firm does not meet the requirements of this Part for DBE eligibility and must offer the firm an opportunity to respond to State B with respect to these reasons.

(ii) The firm may elect to respond in writing, to request an in-person meeting with State B's decision maker to discuss State B's objections to the firm's eligibility, or both. If the firm requests a meeting, as State B you must schedule the meeting to take place within 30 days of receiving the firm's request.

(iii) The firm bears the burden of demonstrating, by a preponderance of evidence, that it meets the requirements of this Part with respect to the particularized issues raised by State B's notice. The firm is not otherwise responsible for further demonstrating its eligibility to State B.

(iv) The decision maker for State B must be an individual who is thoroughly familiar with the provisions of this Part concerning certification.

(v) State B must issue a written decision within 30 days of the receipt of the written response from the firm or the meeting with the decision maker, whichever is later.

(vi) The firm's application for certification is stayed pending the outcome of this process.

(vii) A decision under this paragraph (d)(4) may be appealed to the Departmental Office of Civil Rights under s§26.89 of this part.

(e) As State B, if you have not received from State A a copy of the site visit review report by a date 14 days after you have made a timely request for it, you may hold action required by paragraphs (d)(2) through (4) of this section in abeyance pending receipt of the site visit review report. In this event, you must, no later than 30 days from the date on which you received from an applicant firm all the information required by paragraph (c) of this section, notify the firm in writing of the delay in the process and the reason for it.

(f)(1) As a UCP, when you deny a firm's application, reject the application of a firm certified in State A or any other State in which the firm is certified, through the procedures of paragraph (d)(4) of this section, or decertify a firm, in whole or in part, you must make an entry in the Department of Transportation Office of Civil Rights' (DOCR's) Ineligibility Determination Online Database. You must enter the following information:

(i) The name of the firm;

(ii) The name(s) of the firm's owner(s);

(iii) The type and date of the action;

(iv) The reason for the action.

(2) As a UCP, you must check the DOCR Web site at least once every month to determine whether any firm that is applying to you for certification or that you have already certified is on the list.

(3) For any such firm that is on the list, you must promptly request a copy of the listed decision from the UCP that made it. As the UCP receiving such a request, you must provide a copy of the decision to the requesting UCP within 7 days of receiving the request. As the UCP receiving the decision, you must then consider the information in the decision in determining what, if any, action to take with respect to the certified DBE firm or applicant.

(g) You must implement the requirements of this section beginning January 1, 2012.

[76 FR 5100, Jan. 28, 2011]

§26.86   What rules govern recipients' denials of initial requests for certification?

(a) When you deny a request by a firm, which is not currently certified with you, to be certified as a DBE, you must provide the firm a written explanation of the reasons for the denial, specifically referencing the evidence in the record that supports each reason for the denial. All documents and other information on which the denial is based must be made available to the applicant, on request.

(b) [Reserved]

(c) When a firm is denied certification, you must establish a time period of no more than twelve months that must elapse before the firm may reapply to the recipient for certification. You may provide, in your DBE program, subject to approval by the concerned operating administration, a shorter waiting period for reapplication. The time period for reapplication begins to run on the date the explanation required by paragraph (a) of this section is received by the firm. An applicant's appeal of your decision to the Department pursuant to §26.89 does not extend this period.

(d) When you make an administratively final denial of certification concerning a firm, the firm may appeal the denial to the Department under §26.89.

[64 FR 5126, Feb. 2, 1999. Redesignated and amended at 68 FR 35555, June 16, 2003; 79 FR 59598, Oct. 2, 2014]

§26.87   What procedures does a recipient use to remove a DBE's eligibility?

(a) Ineligibility complaints. (1) Any person may file with you a written complaint alleging that a currently-certified firm is ineligible and specifying the alleged reasons why the firm is ineligible. You are not required to accept a general allegation that a firm is ineligible or an anonymous complaint. The complaint may include any information or arguments supporting the complainant's assertion that the firm is ineligible and should not continue to be certified. Confidentiality of complainants' identities must be protected as provided in §26.109(b).

(2) You must review your records concerning the firm, any material provided by the firm and the complainant, and other available information. You may request additional information from the firm or conduct any other investigation that you deem necessary.

(3) If you determine, based on this review, that there is reasonable cause to believe that the firm is ineligible, you must provide written notice to the firm that you propose to find the firm ineligible, setting forth the reasons for the proposed determination. If you determine that such reasonable cause does not exist, you must notify the complainant and the firm in writing of this determination and the reasons for it. All statements of reasons for findings on the issue of reasonable cause must specifically reference the evidence in the record on which each reason is based.

(b) Recipient-initiated proceedings. If, based on notification by the firm of a change in its circumstances or other information that comes to your attention, you determine that there is reasonable cause to believe that a currently certified firm is ineligible, you must provide written notice to the firm that you propose to find the firm ineligible, setting forth the reasons for the proposed determination. The statement of reasons for the finding of reasonable cause must specifically reference the evidence in the record on which each reason is based.

(c) DOT directive to initiate proceeding. (1) If the concerned operating administration determines that information in your certification records, or other information available to the concerned operating administration, provides reasonable cause to believe that a firm you certified does not meet the eligibility criteria of this part, the concerned operating administration may direct you to initiate a proceeding to remove the firm's certification.

(2) The concerned operating administration must provide you and the firm a notice setting forth the reasons for the directive, including any relevant documentation or other information.

(3) You must immediately commence and prosecute a proceeding to remove eligibility as provided by paragraph (b) of this section.

(d) Hearing. When you notify a firm that there is reasonable cause to remove its eligibility, as provided in paragraph (a), (b), or (c) of this section, you must give the firm an opportunity for an informal hearing, at which the firm may respond to the reasons for the proposal to remove its eligibility in person and provide information and arguments concerning why it should remain certified.

(1) In such a proceeding, you bear the burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the firm does not meet the certification standards of this part.

(2) You must maintain a complete record of the hearing, by any means acceptable under state law for the retention of a verbatim record of an administrative hearing. If there is an appeal to DOT under §26.89, you must provide a transcript of the hearing to DOT and, on request, to the firm. You must retain the original record of the hearing. You may charge the firm only for the cost of copying the record.

(3) The firm may elect to present information and arguments in writing, without going to a hearing. In such a situation, you bear the same burden of proving, by a preponderance of the evidence, that the firm does not meet the certification standards, as you would during a hearing.

(e) Separation of functions. You must ensure that the decision in a proceeding to remove a firm's eligibility is made by an office and personnel that did not take part in actions leading to or seeking to implement the proposal to remove the firm's eligibility and are not subject, with respect to the matter, to direction from the office or personnel who did take part in these actions.

(1) Your method of implementing this requirement must be made part of your DBE program.

(2) The decisionmaker must be an individual who is knowledgeable about the certification requirements of your DBE program and this part.

(3) Before a UCP is operational in its state, a small airport or small transit authority (i.e., an airport or transit authority serving an area with less than 250,000 population) is required to meet this requirement only to the extent feasible.

(f) Grounds for decision. You may base a decision to remove a firm's eligibility only on one or more of the following grounds:

(1) Changes in the firm's circumstances since the certification of the firm by the recipient that render the firm unable to meet the eligibility standards of this part;

(2) Information or evidence not available to you at the time the firm was certified;

(3) Information relevant to eligibility that has been concealed or misrepresented by the firm;

(4) A change in the certification standards or requirements of the Department since you certified the firm;

(5) Your decision to certify the firm was clearly erroneous;

(6) The firm has failed to cooperate with you (see §26.109(c));

(7) The firm has exhibited a pattern of conduct indicating its involvement in attempts to subvert the intent or requirements of the DBE program (see §26.73(a)(2)); or

(8) The firm has been suspended or debarred for conduct related to the DBE program. The notice required by paragraph (g) of this section must include a copy of the suspension or debarment action. A decision to remove a firm for this reason shall not be subject to the hearing procedures in paragraph (d) of this section.

(g) Notice of decision. Following your decision, you must provide the firm written notice of the decision and the reasons for it, including specific references to the evidence in the record that supports each reason for the decision. The notice must inform the firm of the consequences of your decision and of the availability of an appeal to the Department of Transportation under §26.89. You must send copies of the notice to the complainant in an ineligibility complaint or the concerned operating administration that had directed you to initiate the proceeding. Provided that, when sending such a notice to a complainant other than a DOT operating administration, you must not include information reasonably construed as confidential business information without the written consent of the firm that submitted the information.

(h) [Reserved]

(i) Status of firm during proceeding. (1) A firm remains an eligible DBE during the pendancy of your proceeding to remove its eligibility.

(2) The firm does not become ineligible until the issuance of the notice provided for in paragraph (g) of this section.

(j) Effects of removal of eligibility. When you remove a firm's eligibility, you must take the following action:

(1) When a prime contractor has made a commitment to using the ineligible firm, or you have made a commitment to using a DBE prime contractor, but a subcontract or contract has not been executed before you issue the decertification notice provided for in paragraph (g) of this section, the ineligible firm does not count toward the contract goal or overall goal. You must direct the prime contractor to meet the contract goal with an eligible DBE firm or demonstrate to you that it has made a good faith effort to do so.

(2) If a prime contractor has executed a subcontract with the firm before you have notified the firm of its ineligibility, the prime contractor may continue to use the firm on the contract and may continue to receive credit toward its DBE goal for the firm's work. In this case, or in a case where you have let a prime contract to the DBE that was later ruled ineligible, the portion of the ineligible firm's performance of the contract remaining after you issued the notice of its ineligibility shall not count toward your overall goal, but may count toward the contract goal.

(3) Exception: If the DBE's ineligibility is caused solely by its having exceeded the size standard during the performance of the contract, you may continue to count its participation on that contract toward overall and contract goals.

(k) Availability of appeal. When you make an administratively final removal of a firm's eligibility under this section, the firm may appeal the removal to the Department under §26.89.

[64 FR 5126, Feb. 2, 1999, as amended at 68 FR 35556, June 16, 2003; 76 FR 5101, Jan. 28, 2011; 79 FR 59599, Oct. 2, 2014]

§26.88   Summary suspension of certification.

(a) A recipient shall immediately suspend a DBE's certification without adhering to the requirements in §26.87(d) of this part when an individual owner whose ownership and control of the firm are necessary to the firm's certification dies or is incarcerated.

(b)(1) A recipient may immediately suspend a DBE's certification without adhering to the requirements in §26.87(d) when there is adequate evidence to believe that there has been a material change in circumstances that may affect the eligibility of the DBE firm to remain certified, or when the DBE fails to notify the recipient or UCP in writing of any material change in circumstances as required by §26.83(i) of this part or fails to timely file an affidavit of no change under §26.83(j).

(2) In determining the adequacy of the evidence to issue a suspension under paragraph (b)(1) of this section, the recipient shall consider all relevant factors, including how much information is available, the credibility of the information and allegations given the circumstances, whether or not important allegations are corroborated, and what inferences can reasonably be drawn as a result.

(c) The concerned operating administration may direct the recipient to take action pursuant to paragraph (a) or (b) this section if it determines that information available to it is sufficient to warrant immediate suspension.

(d) When a firm is suspended pursuant to paragraph (a) or (b) of this section, the recipient shall immediately notify the DBE of the suspension by certified mail, return receipt requested, to the last known address of the owner(s) of the DBE.

(e) Suspension is a temporary status of ineligibility pending an expedited show cause hearing/proceeding under §26.87 of this part to determine whether the DBE is eligible to participate in the program and consequently should be removed. The suspension takes effect when the DBE receives, or is deemed to have received, the Notice of Suspension.

(f) While suspended, the DBE may not be considered to meet a contract goal on a new contract, and any work it does on a contract received during the suspension shall not be counted toward a recipient's overall goal. The DBE may continue to perform under an existing contract executed before the DBE received a Notice of Suspension and may be counted toward the contract goal during the period of suspension as long as the DBE is performing a commercially useful function under the existing contract.

(g) Following receipt of the Notice of Suspension, if the DBE believes it is no longer eligible, it may voluntarily withdraw from the program, in which case no further action is required. If the DBE believes that its eligibility should be reinstated, it must provide to the recipient information demonstrating that the firm is eligible notwithstanding its changed circumstances. Within 30 days of receiving this information, the recipient must either lift the suspension and reinstate the firm's certification or commence a decertification action under §26.87 of this part. If the recipient commences a decertification proceeding, the suspension remains in effect during the proceeding.

(h) The decision to immediately suspend a DBE under paragraph (a) or (b) of this section is not appealable to the US Department of Transportation. The failure of a recipient to either lift the suspension and reinstate the firm or commence a decertification proceeding, as required by paragraph (g) of this section, is appealable to the U.S. Department of Transportation under §26.89 of this part, as a constructive decertification.

[79 FR 59599, Oct. 2, 2014]

§26.89   What is the process for certification appeals to the Department of Transportation?

(a)(1) If you are a firm that is denied certification or whose eligibility is removed by a recipient, including SBA-certified firms, you may make an administrative appeal to the Department.

(2) If you are a complainant in an ineligibility complaint to a recipient (including the concerned operating administration in the circumstances provided in §26.87(c)), you may appeal to the Department if the recipient does not find reasonable cause to propose removing the firm's eligibility or, following a removal of eligibility proceeding, determines that the firm is eligible.

(3) Send appeals to the following address: U.S. Department of Transportation, Departmental Office of Civil Rights, 1200 New Jersey Avenue SE., Washington, DC 20590-0001.

(b) Pending the Department's decision in the matter, the recipient's decision remains in effect. The Department does not stay the effect of the recipient's decision while it is considering an appeal.

(c) If you want to file an appeal, you must send a letter to the Department within 90 days of the date of the recipient's final decision, including information and setting forth a full and specific statement as to why the decision is erroneous, what significant fact that the recipient failed to consider, or what provisions of this Part the recipient did not properly apply. The Department may accept an appeal filed later than 90 days after the date of the decision if the Department determines that there was good cause for the late filing of the appeal or in the interest of justice.

(d) When it receives an appeal, the Department requests a copy of the recipient's complete administrative record in the matter. If you are the recipient, you must provide the administrative record, including a hearing transcript, within 20 days of the Department's request. The Department may extend this time period on the basis of a recipient's showing of good cause. To facilitate the Department's review of a recipient's decision, you must ensure that such administrative records are well organized, indexed, and paginated. Records that do not comport with these requirements are not acceptable and will be returned to you to be corrected immediately. If an appeal is brought concerning one recipient's certification decision concerning a firm, and that recipient relied on the decision and/or administrative record of another recipient, this requirement applies to both recipients involved.

(e) The Department makes its decision based solely on the entire administrative record as supplemented by the appeal. The Department does not make a de novo review of the matter and does not conduct a hearing. The Department may also supplement the administrative record by adding relevant information made available by the DOT Office of Inspector General; Federal, State, or local law enforcement authorities; officials of a DOT operating administration or other appropriate DOT office; a recipient; or a firm or other private party.

(f) As a recipient, when you provide supplementary information to the Department, you shall also make this information available to the firm and any third-party complainant involved, consistent with Federal or applicable state laws concerning freedom of information and privacy. The Department makes available, on request by the firm and any third-party complainant involved, any supplementary information it receives from any source.

(1) The Department affirms your decision unless it determines, based on the entire administrative record, that your decision is unsupported by substantial evidence or inconsistent with the substantive or procedural provisions of this part concerning certification.

(2) If the Department determines, after reviewing the entire administrative record, that your decision was unsupported by substantial evidence or inconsistent with the substantive or procedural provisions of this part concerning certification, the Department reverses your decision and directs you to certify the firm or remove its eligibility, as appropriate. You must take the action directed by the Department's decision immediately upon receiving written notice of it.

(3) The Department is not required to reverse your decision if the Department determines that a procedural error did not result in fundamental unfairness to the appellant or substantially prejudice the opportunity of the appellant to present its case.

(4) If it appears that the record is incomplete or unclear with respect to matters likely to have a significant impact on the outcome of the case, the Department may remand the record to you with instructions seeking clarification or augmentation of the record before making a finding. The Department may also remand a case to you for further proceedings consistent with Department instructions concerning the proper application of the provisions of this part.

(5) The Department does not uphold your decision based on grounds not specified in your decision.

(6) The Department's decision is based on the status and circumstances of the firm as of the date of the decision being appealed.

(7) The Department provides written notice of its decision to you, the firm, and the complainant in an ineligibility complaint. A copy of the notice is also sent to any other recipient whose administrative record or decision has been involved in the proceeding (see paragraph (d) of this section). The Department will also notify the SBA in writing when DOT takes an action on an appeal that results in or confirms a loss of eligibility to any SBA-certified firm. The notice includes the reasons for the Department's decision, including specific references to the evidence in the record that supports each reason for the decision.

(8) The Department's policy is to make its decision within 180 days of receiving the complete administrative record. If the Department does not make its decision within this period, the Department provides written notice to concerned parties, including a statement of the reason for the delay and a date by which the appeal decision will be made.

(g) All decisions under this section are administratively final, and are not subject to petitions for reconsideration.

[64 FR 5126, Feb. 2, 1999, as amended at 65 FR 68951, Nov. 15, 2000; 68 FR 35556, June 16, 2003; 73 FR 33329, June 12, 2008; 79 FR 59599, Oct. 2, 2014]

§26.91   What actions do recipients take following DOT certification appeal decisions?

(a) If you are the recipient from whose action an appeal under §26.89 is taken, the decision is binding. It is not binding on other recipients.

(b) If you are a recipient to which a DOT determination under §26.89 is applicable, you must take the following action:

(1) If the Department determines that you erroneously certified a firm, you must remove the firm's eligibility on receipt of the determination, without further proceedings on your part. Effective on the date of your receipt of the Department's determination, the consequences of a removal of eligibility set forth in §26.87(i) take effect.

(2) If the Department determines that you erroneously failed to find reasonable cause to remove the firm's eligibility, you must expeditiously commence a proceeding to determine whether the firm's eligibility should be removed, as provided in §26.87.

(3) If the Department determines that you erroneously declined to certify or removed the eligibility of the firm, you must certify the firm, effective on the date of your receipt of the written notice of Department's determination.

(4) If the Department determines that you erroneously determined that the presumption of social and economic disadvantage either should or should not be deemed rebutted, you must take appropriate corrective action as determined by the Department.

(5) If the Department affirms your determination, no further action is necessary.

(c) Where DOT has upheld your denial of certification to or removal of eligibility from a firm, or directed the removal of a firm's eligibility, other recipients with whom the firm is certified may commence a proceeding to remove the firm's eligibility under §26.87. Such recipients must not remove the firm's eligibility absent such a proceeding. Where DOT has reversed your denial of certification to or removal of eligibility from a firm, other recipients must take the DOT action into account in any certification action involving the firm. However, other recipients are not required to certify the firm based on the DOT decision.

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