Jail lawsuit costs taxpayers $22,000

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Not only will Augusta taxpayers have to pay for the jail expansion, they also have a related $22,620 legal bill on their tab, according to the bills The Augusta Chronicle obtained this week.

That expense comes because city commissioners hired Atlanta attorney Mary Cooney to represent the city after McKnight Construction sued over the contract to build the Webster Detention Center expansion.

McKnight went to court in July after learning that the city's procurement department had thrown out its bid for the project this summer, although it was the lowest bidder by nearly $2 million.

Based on legal advice given in a closed session, city commissioners voted this fall to rebid the project. McKnight came in with the lowest bid again, but construction costs had risen and the bid was 2 percent higher than the original estimate. The project, according to city documents, is now $5.22 million over budget.

McKnight's attorneys tried to convince city commissioners that they did not have to reject the original bids, but commissioners voted to do so.

Ms. Cooney defended Atlanta's purchasing practices for 22 years before going into private practice, according to a letter she wrote to Augusta's general counsel, Chiquita Johnson. She charged $325 an hour to represent the city in the McKnight litigation.

Ms. Cooney started working for the city in July, when she spent an hour talking with Ms. Johnson and Procurement Director Geri Sams. The next day's work included a lunch meeting with Ms. Johnson and Ms. Sams, research, producing court documents and exchanging e-mails. That cost $975, according to her bills.

The two sides agreed to a compromise soon after the lawsuit was filed in July. The city was allowed to proceed with the logistics of preparing the bid project, but city commissioners were prohibited from awarding the contract until the litigation was settled.

The city contended that Ms. Sams' department was correct to throw out McKnight's original bid because the company left out a document, a noncollusion affidavit, in its bid package. The city's contention that the next lowest bidder, RW Allen LLC, was in compliance with all of the necessary documents turned out to be false, according to statements made in court.

McKnight withdrew its lawsuit Sept. 2.

Although the litigation was over, Ms. Cooney continued to work for the city, reviewing an Open Records request for procurement documents, among other duties, according to her bills sent to the city.

Ms. Cooney included in her bills a letter to Ms. Johnson offering to continue to assist the city with legal help.

McKnight Construction was the most recent local business to sue the city over its purchasing practices.

A federal lawsuit against the city, alleging that contracts for goods and services are awarded unfairly and in a discriminatory manner, is pending.

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

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As It Is
2
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As It Is 12/04/08 - 03:23 am
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0
This is our government in

This is our government in action. Through out a bid over a piece of paper even though they were the lowest bidder by 2 million dollars and then wasted more money on attorney's. We MUST get someone with 1/2 a brain making good decisions and then have the county commissoners support them. Our city is wasting millions of dollars every single year and can't even clean our streats or provide for proper public safety.

Riverman1
79081
Points
Riverman1 12/04/08 - 05:21 am
0
0
Chiquita Johnson has the

Chiquita Johnson has the power to contract out legal work? She is hired by the county to handle legal matters and she can't do exactly what she was hired to do? I don't know how this case could be any more specific to what she is supposed to do. Fire her.

AugustaVoter
2
Points
AugustaVoter 12/04/08 - 07:56 am
0
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$325 an hour for consultation

$325 an hour for consultation work. And $975 for lunch? [filtered word]?

politicallyNcorrect1
0
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politicallyNcorrect1 12/04/08 - 08:16 am
0
0
Opps

Opps

_iamthebadamerican
0
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_iamthebadamerican 12/04/08 - 09:43 am
0
0
Richmond Cnty gov at it's

Richmond Cnty gov at it's best. Wonder how much money Geri Sams has costs taxpayers with her shennanigans?

rufus
2
Points
rufus 12/04/08 - 09:57 am
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It's the good old girl

It's the good old girl network. Takin care of sisters

pofwe
5
Points
pofwe 12/04/08 - 09:59 am
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0
As a paralegal I could have

As a paralegal I could have done what Mary Cooney did. And I would have done it for lunch.

stadry
0
Points
stadry 12/04/08 - 10:02 am
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according to procurement, i

according to procurement, i omitted the same form from 1 of my bids,,, shouldda sued if its as easy as described in this article :-)

WW1949
19
Points
WW1949 12/04/08 - 10:20 am
0
0
Stadry, are you a roofer with

Stadry, are you a roofer with a name like that?

disssman
6
Points
disssman 12/04/08 - 10:52 am
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I thought our illustrious

I thought our illustrious Grand Jury just finished an investigation of procurement, and gave it high marks. Makes you wonder what the education level of the Jury is? By the way the Judicial center was determined to be best built downtown, because it was closer to the jail. Now we have decided to build the jail out in the county. Wonder if they would consider building them on the same location, they would fit and there would be acres of parking and plenty of access and of course they would be closer to the jail!!!

palomino9
0
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palomino9 12/04/08 - 10:59 am
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0
sounds like good ole boy

sounds like good ole boy politics to me. the commissioners are corrupt

DoubleD
0
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DoubleD 12/04/08 - 01:26 pm
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People of Augusta will

People of Augusta will complain about anything, and the Augusta Chronicle(AC) likes to keep stirring the pot. What is wrong with hiring a lawyer? Lawyers are in the busisness of making money, and unfortunately they are a necessity in cases like this. AC writes articles like this just to tick people off. Would you rather the city go to court without legal representation?

jack
10
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jack 12/04/08 - 03:37 pm
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DD, the city already has a

DD, the city already has a lawyer, so didn't need the second lawyer. If Banana Johnson can't do the work, fire her and hire some one who can (but don't hold your breath-black Augusta politics at work). Glad I live in N Augusta.

DMac_357
1
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DMac_357 12/04/08 - 05:13 pm
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0
jack - what are you saying??

jack - what are you saying??

corgimom
27377
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corgimom 12/04/08 - 05:49 pm
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Lawyers specialize, just like

Lawyers specialize, just like physicians do. And when millions of dollars are at stake, don't you want a specialist? And since Mason McKnight withdrew the suit, looks like she earned her money.

BakersfieldCityLimits
1
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BakersfieldCityLimits 12/04/08 - 06:26 pm
0
0
The jail spends more than 22

The jail spends more than 22 thousand every few weeks for medical treatment. Check into that a let me know if it makes sense to spend thousands a day for a dying inmate to be in ICU for weeks on end.

factchecker
0
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factchecker 12/04/08 - 08:47 pm
0
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Whatever it cost the county

Whatever it cost the county it was worth it, especially if they don't have to give the contract to McKnight. I've seen some of their work on government buildings and it sucks. The county will probably save more in the long run by not having to use them.

pointstoponder
153
Points
pointstoponder 12/04/08 - 10:48 pm
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factchecker, you need to

factchecker, you need to check your facts. McKnight was the low bidder the second time with a higher price.

hoser123
0
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hoser123 12/04/08 - 11:46 pm
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$22 bucks say the open

$22 bucks say the open records act request was from the AC.

As It Is
2
Points
As It Is 12/05/08 - 04:57 am
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Sorry Double D but if you

Sorry Double D but if you consider the waste of $22,000 in taxpayer money or the stupidity of saving $2 million dollars with a legimitate bidder to build the jail stirring the pot instead of reporting the news please give the AC a great big spoon because they need to reach even deeper into the pot and really get it turning.

corgimom
27377
Points
corgimom 12/05/08 - 11:07 am
0
0
If the city had accepted

If the city had accepted McKnight's bid without that document, RW Allen would've sued and won- and it would've cost way more than $22,000.

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