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Judge rules against city in lawsuit over Augusta municipal building remodeling contracts

Suit filed in April against Augusta, its commission

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For at least one multimillion-dollar project, the city of Augusta must follow the law, Superior Court Chief Judge J. Carlisle Overstreet ruled in an order signed Friday.

Unless he rules otherwise, the city cannot award a contract for the Augusta-Richmond County Municipal Building remodeling project, which is projected to cost $14 million.

“The city has wasted millions of dollars,” said attorney Jack Long, who filed a Richmond County Superior Court lawsuit against the city and the Augusta Commission on behalf of John Z. Speer Jr. and the Augusta-Richmond County Property Owners Association.

The lawsuit was filed in April when the commission voted to pay $1.29 million to Turner Construction to be the “construction manager at risk” to oversee the remodeling of the municipal building.

The city also contracts with Heery International to oversee all of the special purpose local option sales tax projects at a cost of more than $7 million so far. In 2005, the city began using the construction manager at risk to oversee the building projects, too.

The city’s process for selecting the construction manager at risk is illegal, Overstreet found. The city not only is ignoring the law requiring a competitive bid process to select the manager but also isn’t using competitive bidding to obtain all the other goods and services needed for the construction project, Overstreet wrote.

Moreover, the city violated a city ordinance by not requiring the procurement director or department heads to put into writing their justification for not using a competitive bidding process, Overstreet found.

“The procurement director should follow the law ... not her personal feel(ing)s in awarding contracts,” Overstreet wrote. “Any public construction contract for an amount in excess of $100,000 without strictly complying with the (state’s public works law) is illegal.”

During a hearing on the matter in April, Procurement Director Geri Sams and City Administrator Fred Russell testified that price shouldn’t be the bottom line in awarding contracts for goods and services.

Overstreet said, however, that the Supreme Court of Georgia has consistently held otherwise.

“... (B)id process was designed to protect the public coffers from waste and to assure that taxpayers receive quality work and goods for the lowest possible price,” he quoted from one of the Supreme Court decisions.

Instead of using competitive bidding, the city instituted a two-step method: selecting contractors who meet the desired qualifications, and then selecting a construction manager based on subjective criteria, not objective reasoning, the judge wrote. Cost is only a small consideration in the city’s process.

The judge also cited testimony given by local builder Robert Meybohm, whose company built government projects such as the Savannah Rapids Pavilion.

The process being used by the city in effect prevents smaller companies from winning contracts because they don’t have marketing departments like those in the Atlanta firms that have been hired for special purpose local option sales tax projects in recent years, Meybohm said.

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Crime Reports and Rewards TV
33
Points
Crime Reports and Rewards TV 09/23/11 - 03:49 pm
0
0
They wouldn't call the GBI

They wouldn't call the GBI about Kendrick not loading the $25,000 on the Brinks truck we sent to get it just before it went missing and it's been all downhill from there... We need to name the new Crime Scene Investigations section of the New Strength Building after Carlyle as he seems to follow the facts, not his feelings. Carlyle is a true CSI.

broad street narrow mind
348
Points
broad street narrow mind 09/23/11 - 05:07 pm
0
0
i get that a bids process is
Unpublished

i get that a bids process is supposed to go with the lowest price, but where or how do they make sure enough bids are awarded to monorities and women? how is richond county doing with that lately? also, not sure if it was this or another project, but i seem to remember a case of three sealed envelopes and only two being opened. does that ring a bell with anyone and if so what's the story? thanks. i'll take my answer off the air.

Austin Rhodes
2852
Points
Austin Rhodes 09/23/11 - 05:33 pm
0
0
Gerri Sams either has the

Gerri Sams either has the coolest collection of blackmail pictures on SOMEBODY...or a voodoo spell working on every elected official in recent city history. It blows the mind.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 09/23/11 - 05:54 pm
0
0
Kind of like Fred Russell,

Kind of like Fred Russell, Austin. I mean what do these two have to do short of committing murder to be fired for incompetence? But the fact that the commission still refuses to fire Russell (who is white) when there is ample reason to do so is going to make it difficult to get rid of Sams because people will scream racial double standard. I say both have needed to go for a long time.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/23/11 - 06:12 pm
0
0
When, oh, when will Geri Sams

When, oh, when will Geri Sams get fired?

How many lawsuits will it take?

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 09/23/11 - 06:46 pm
0
0
Insider, I suppose when

Insider, I suppose when Russell gets fired.. see the story about the internal audit. Both need to go

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/23/11 - 07:11 pm
0
0
Why are commissioners quick

Why are commissioners quick to publicly criticize some city employees, but they lack the courage to say anything about Geri Sams?

It's interesting how afraid they are of her.

BevBoudreaux
0
Points
BevBoudreaux 09/23/11 - 08:38 pm
0
0
Maybe Austin is right.. maybe

Maybe Austin is right.. maybe she knows too much

Iwannakno
1533
Points
Iwannakno 09/23/11 - 11:41 pm
0
0
She knows which skeletons are
Unpublished

She knows which skeletons are locked in the closets and which person holds the keys.

stadry
0
Points
stadry 09/24/11 - 02:34 am
0
0
IF, as you post, lowest price

IF, as you post, lowest price governs contract award, why are minority/women sub-contract awards relevant ? historically their prices are typically higher than prevailing market amounts. how do you define or quantify 'enough' ?

imo, mz sams either has had Divine protection in her career, has photographs & negatives, or is Irish !

Craig Spinks
817
Points
Craig Spinks 09/24/11 - 05:16 am
0
0
Gerri and Fred: A tandem

Gerri and Fred: A tandem termination a la the troika prosecution of Linda, Robin and what's-his-name?

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 08:41 am
0
0
Okay, they violated state law

Okay, they violated state law and city ordinance. Isn't that enough for termination for cause?

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 08:44 am
0
0
A Grovetown school teacher

A Grovetown school teacher grabbed a troublemaking student by the scruff of his neck and the school system filed a police complaint for battery.

Russell and Sams violate state law. Who in city government will file a complaint?

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 08:45 am
0
0
The Augusta mayor does not

The Augusta mayor does not have much authority or many duties, but he certainly has the authority to file a police complaint on behalf of the city.

Insider Information
4009
Points
Insider Information 09/24/11 - 08:59 am
0
0
Little Lamb, there is no such

Little Lamb, there is no such thing as firing for cause in Augusta. However, there is something called early retirement.

It works like this... You screw up royally and they pay you loads of money to just go away.

Little Lamb
44796
Points
Little Lamb 09/24/11 - 10:41 am
0
0
Thanks for explaining the

Thanks for explaining the system, Insider. In the cases of Russell and Sams, it may be worth it.

pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 09/24/11 - 01:18 pm
0
0
I find it interesting that

I find it interesting that the good judge issued the ruling from a building constructing using the very process he just rulled against. As a mater of fact, he and the other judges were participants in the process.

As an aside, anyone that thinks low bid is always the best method of contracting, they are seriously delusional. With CM at risk, the manager's services are treated as professional services in the same manner as you would an architect, lawyer, or engineer. Those services are not low bid either. The selection process used is legal in GA as well as most other states.

pointstoponder
161
Points
pointstoponder 09/24/11 - 09:07 pm
0
0
Mr. Meybohn's company, the

Mr. Meybohn's company, the low bidder, also built the Museum of History which the citizens of Augusta are having to re-roof because his firm didn't install the original properly. Since when is paying twice saving money?

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