Lawsuit says Augusta inconsistent on bids rules

A taxpayers group has filed suit against the city of Augusta again over its purchasing practices.

 

The Association for Fair Government filed suit in Richmond County Superior Court on Thursday, charging that the city discriminates in how it awards bids.

Specifically, the suit alleges the city rejects some businesses that err in the bid documents but awards contracts to other businesses that make the same mistakes.

A lawsuit represents only one side of a dispute. The city will have 30 days to answer the suit.

The association's complaint centers on the city's materiality provision.

The materiality provision requires bidders to perfectly adhere to all instructions in the bid requests. Any errors result in rejection by the procurement office, the code states.

The lawsuit lists 11 businesses whose bids were rejected because they did not provide their business license information as requested.

The lawsuit also lists eight businesses that allegedly committed the same error but were still awarded contracts.

The lawsuit lists 11 other businesses whose bids were rejected for improper notarization of documents, and 20 businesses awarded projects or jobs despite alleged notarization errors in their bids.

The lawsuit further lists seven businesses whose bids were rejected because they did not properly fill out a document required for subcontractors. And the lawsuit cites one bid awarded in December to a company that allegedly failed to submit the same required subcontractor document.

The document is required even if no subcontractors are involved.

The association alleges that the city's enforcement of the materiality provision constitutes unfair trade practices. "Bidding statutes are to guard against favoritism, improvidence, extravagance and corruption," the lawsuit reads.

The association is asking the judge -- the case is assigned to Judge Sheryl B. Jolly -- to void the contracts awarded to alleged noncompliant bidders and to award attorney fees.

The association is involved in four other lawsuits against the city concerning purchasing practice and access to public documents.

Reach Sandy Hodson at (706) 823-3226 or sandy.hodson@augustachronicle.com