Firm must prove it was cheated

A monument company suing the city can recover lost profits if it can prove it was cheated out of a city contract, attorneys agreed Monday.

 

The stipulation headed off the need for a hearing on Holmes Monument Co.'s request for a temporary restraining order to prevent another company from fulfilling and collecting fees for a yearlong contract to open and close cemetery graves.

Holmes Monument Co. sued the city in Richmond County Superior Court last month. The suit contends that the company was treated unfairly and that the city violated its own purchasing rules in awarding the annual contract.

The invitation to bid was first advertised in September. Holmes Monument was later informed it had won the bid, according to the lawsuit. But on Dec. 17, the company received a letter from the city's procurement office stating that it could not have the contract. At the time, Holmes Monument, of Edgefield, S.C., did not have a current Augusta city business license. The invitation to bid required bidders to have an Augusta business license.

The contract was put out for bid again last month.

On Monday, Holmes Monument's attorney Robert Mullins told Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet that his client wasn't told the details of how and when the contract would be rebid, as required by city ordinance.

Only one company then submitted a bid, Lowe Vault & Monument Co. Lowe was awarded the contract for less than $500, according to city records.

Andrew MacKenzie, of the city's law department, countered that a contract cannot be subjected to a restraining order. If Holmes Monument could prove its case -- the city wasn't conceding it could -- then the company can recover damages later, Mr. MacKenzie said.

Judge Overstreet asked if Mr. MacKenzie would be willing to stipulate that the company is entitled to lost profits if it proves its case. Both attorneys agreed.