(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.
(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.