Restraining order extended in construction bid dispute

A judge extended a restraining order Wednesday that keeps the city of Augusta from awarding a multimillion-dollar construction contract.

Superior Court Judge Michael N. Annis also chastised the city's attorneys for earlier misrepresenting the facts about the bids submitted by McKnight Construction and R.W. Allen LLC to build the addition at the Phinizy Road jail.

McKnight sued the city and requested the restraining order last month as the city was poised to give the jail expansion contract to R.W. Allen, although McKnight's bid was nearly $2 million less than R.W. Allen's.

The city responded that McKnight's bid was defective because it did not include a "non-collusion affidavit of contract." Its bid was tossed, and R.W. Allen, with the next lowest bid, was recommended. The city denied McKnight's allegation that R.W. Allen's bid was also defective.

McKnight's attorneys learned this week, however, that they were right: R.W. Allen's affidavit was notarized but never signed, a point attorney Mary Carole Cooney, on behalf of the city, had to admit at Wednesday's hearing.

Ms. Cooney told the judge that city officials will recommend that the commission reject all bids and put the project out to bid again.

McKnight's attorney Jase Ingram conceded that the city commission has the right to reject all current bids, even if it costs the city taxpayers $2 million more. But the commissioners also have the right to decide the better course is to accept McKnight's bid instead, Mr. Ingram said.

Judge Annis ruled to extend the restraining order, which allows administrative work involving the bids and the project to continue, but prohibits commissioners from awarding the bid until McKnight's dispute with the city is settled.