City sued over handling of demolition bids

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An Augusta demolition company that was the first local business to legally challenge the way the city buys goods and services has sued again -- this time over a last-minute bid substitution that substantially changed the city's approach to seeking demolition services.

The suit by Thompson Building Wrecking Co. seeks a temporary restraining order and asks the judge to find the city in contempt of court. The company's attorney, Robert Mullins, filed the motions Friday in U.S. District Court.

Thompson contends that the city is trying to give minority-owned businesses preference in direct violation of a November 2007 federal court order that prohibits the city from race-based preferential treatment.

A date for Judge J. Randal Hall to consider the motions has not been set. The city has 20 days to respond to Thompson's complaint.

The newest legal battle is over the city's decision to seek bids for the demolition of three apartment buildings at 910 Wrightsboro Road.

The Augusta Housing and Community Development Department is in charge of the project, which is part of the effort to revitalize the Laney-Walker neighborhood.

The city put the demolition project out for bid on July 15 but withdrew the request on Aug. 28.

The city put the bid out again, but this time it went out as a Request for Qualifications, a process normally restricted to professional services such as architecture and engineering.

In the demolition RFQ, bidders will submit their plans. The city will then judge the bidders' qualifications and develop a short list. Only those on the short list are asked to submit a price for the project.

Thompson took exception to the RFQ's statement that it seeks bidders with "demonstrated commitment to employ and utilize minority businesses in project planning and implementation.

"The more specific the (bidder) can be in describing the above listed responsibilities the higher the response will be scored."

Thompson further contends that the RFQ violates state law and city ordinance requirements that all public works jobs be put out for competitive bidding.

The company also contends the RFQ violates the state's requirements that all contracts must include bid bonds, performance bonds and payment bonds when the project is valued at $100,000 or more. The city's RFQ for the project doesn't require the mandatory performance or payment bond.

According to the city procurement department's online records, no other demolition project has been submitted as an RFQ since at least January 2007. The use of RFQs has increased every year, however, from 13 in 2007 to 13 so far this year.

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

BACKGROUND: Thompson Building Wrecking Co., first sued the city of Augusta in 2006 over a demolition project being awarded to another company when Thompson's bid was $250,000 cheaper.

THE BATTLE: It set off a legal battle over access to public documents; the city's use of a materiality clause, which mandates perfect adherence to a bid request in order to be considered; and the city's old Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, which gave small businesses and those owned by women or minorities an advantage in bidding.

COST TO TAXPAYERS: Litigation has cost taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, and several lawsuits are pending.

ORIGINAL LAWSUIT

The Thompson Building Wrecking Co. first sued the city of Augusta in 2006 over a demolition project being awarded to another company when Thompson's bid was $250,000 cheaper.

It set off a legal battle over access to public documents; the city's use of a materiality clause, which mandates perfect adherence to a bid request in order to be considered; and the city's old Disadvantaged Business Enterprise Program, which gave small businesses and those owned by women or minorities an advantage in bidding.

The litigation has cost city taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars so far, and several lawsuits are pending.

Comments (18) Add comment
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WhippingPost
1
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WhippingPost 09/26/09 - 04:06 am
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This good ole boy system is

This good ole boy system is dying hard. Apparently more heads need to roll.

Asitisinaug
3
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Asitisinaug 09/26/09 - 04:49 am
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They way OUR city conducts

They way OUR city conducts business with OUR money is pathetic.

ispy4u
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ispy4u 09/26/09 - 05:22 am
0
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The good ole boys are the

The good ole boys are the Thompson company. I am willing to bet that over the years that they have been given the majority of these contracts versus any other contractors. I would like to know, how many of the low bids, ended up causing more than originally planned? Also, just because you are the lowest bidder does not mean that you are the best. Would you ride in an armour vehicle awarded to the lowest bidder and not necessary the better company? What about an air plane built by the lowest bidder and not the best?

mad_max
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mad_max 09/26/09 - 06:04 am
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Obviously more ignorant legal

Obviously more ignorant legal advice from Chiquita. This is how the our county government AND OUR SCHOOL SYSTEM wastes the majority of our tax dollars. They make illegal decisions to award contracts to unqualified minority companies who do poor work and then spend more money repairing the project and even more money defending their illegal practices in court. We need to FIRE EVEERY COMMISSIONER AND EVERY DEPARTMENT HEAD IN THIS TOWN. We also need and investigation of the school board for the same practice.

stadry
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stadry 09/26/09 - 07:18 am
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1 would think, by now, that

1 would think, by now, that procurement would've learned that bid restrictions aren't legal despite some commissioner's wishes,,, the reason low bids occasionally exceed contract amount is based on unforeseen/hidden site conditions which is the owner's responsibility, not the bidders,,, its apparent few can be competitive to thompson because of their equipment, expertise, efficiency, methods, financial resources, & knowledge,,, this is the result of hard work & smarter management - nothing else !

having worked w/them, i wouldn't hesitate to call on them again for any contract,,, if, in my experience, their price's higher than others, there's usually been a reason & we miss'd it.

disssman
6
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disssman 09/26/09 - 07:19 am
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As a taxpayer whose money is

As a taxpayer whose money is funding this city, I wonder how they advertise contracts anyway? It would not surprise me that they only advertise in the A.C. I do know how they get around advertising however. What they do is transfer money to an agency and let that agency do the soliciting and awarding as they see fit, no rules to slow down the process and no competition either. After all who cares, its only taxpayer money and there is plenty of that, for some people.

pizzato
3
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pizzato 09/26/09 - 07:29 am
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Thompson should wash their

Thompson should wash their hands of the city. Didn't one of the Thompson's get his dog shot by a cop?

Riverman1
93637
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Riverman1 09/26/09 - 07:37 am
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Richmond County is a

Richmond County is a predominantly black populated one. "Minority owned business" should mean white owned. There is no getting around that fact when we get into racial preferences in contracts and such. It would be best for the blacks if these things weren't brought up.

Junket831
0
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Junket831 09/26/09 - 08:22 am
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Well said Riverman. It is

Well said Riverman. It is long past due that any preferances in hiring be eliminated. In the case of contracts the lower bid should win, if the business is otherwise qualified to do the job. Is it better to guarantee a specific business owner wins a contract because of a preferance or to try and guarantee that any contract awarded include Augusta/Richmond County residents as employees? The goal should be to encourage employment among the masses and not enrich the pockets of a few politically connected folks.

apex24
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apex24 09/26/09 - 08:26 am
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Ispy, you must have gone to

Ispy, you must have gone to school at Laney where the graduation rate is 30% because your 6:22am post is stupid. Don't you realize that most all city governments and even the federal government goes with a lowest bid contractor. Is that also now racism??? What's next!!!!!!!

DEVGRU
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DEVGRU 09/26/09 - 08:47 am
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Chalk another one up for

Chalk another one up for Augusta mismanagement. Never ending. If it looks this bad from the outside, imagine what it's really like on the inside...

bettyboop
7
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bettyboop 09/26/09 - 09:28 am
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Fire the Bananna !!!!

Fire the Bananna !!!!

APiratesLife4Me
0
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APiratesLife4Me 09/26/09 - 09:29 am
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Riverman for Mayor! Well

Riverman for Mayor! Well said my friend, well said!

Taylor B
5
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Taylor B 09/26/09 - 10:10 am
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Perusing, that's banana,

Perusing, that's banana, B-A-N-A-N-A. Thanks, Gwen Stefani!

jack
10
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jack 09/26/09 - 01:55 pm
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Just another reason to fire

Just another reason to fire the Banana, the would be attorney. Wonde what diploma mill she graduated from?

wheeza
0
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wheeza 09/26/09 - 02:13 pm
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I said it before and I say it

I said it before and I say it again, My Husband is in management for the county and He has told me on several occasions bids ARE given to "minorities". He also said that bids are given to "my cousin, brothers, uncle on my wife's side of the family". The decisions in choosing which company wins has nothing to do with their quality of work.

RoadKing
111
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RoadKing 09/26/09 - 08:24 pm
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I just can't wait to send in

I just can't wait to send in my county taxes next month and see how wisely our local GOVERNMENT BRAINS use it......

lifelongresidient
0
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lifelongresidient 09/29/09 - 08:02 am
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it never ceases to amaze me,

it never ceases to amaze me, how this city is run....where is the input from risk management??? they should be in direct consultation w/the legal dept., during the bid review process and have the authority to either veto the decsion rendered or at the very least have the authority to force the final bid to be reviewed by the commission to have any concerns made a matter of public record. this is just more govt mismanagement w/little or no concern about the poor taxpayers. the current business practices/decisions done by the various dept's are costing the taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars on a regular basis where is the oversight to weigh the consequences of each decision made????

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