La. NAACP president wants airport case to ‘set a precedent’

 

By Johnny Gunter • jgunter@thenewsstar.com • September 1, 2009

The lead attorney for EnviroTech Services LLC told 4th District Court Judge Alvin Sharp on Monday that the city of Monroe did not have the right to throw out the company’s low bid for the new Monroe Regional Airport terminal because of a federal document signed by Mayor Jamie Mayo.

 Charles Jones said he would enter the document into evidence later in the hearing, which will enter its third day in 4th District Court at 9:30 a.m. Tuesday. Sunday’s session began at 4 p.m. and ended at 10 p.m. 

 Jones told the judge that Mayo had signed a document with the Federal Aviation Administration that stated the city needed a waiver from the FAA if the city decided to turn down the lowest bidder. The city has received some $15 million from the federal government for the project. 

 City attorney Nanci Summersgill quickly shot back: “That’s the lowest responsive and responsible bidder, and that’s not what we have here.” 

 Ernest Johnson, who is a lawyer and the state NAACP president, said it is their aim “to make the bidding process a level playing field” so disadvantaged business enterprises (DBE) can participate in the American Recovery and Investment Act. “That money’s going to be coming down next year,” Johnson said, and he wants this case to “set a precedent” for the state. The NAACP joined the case at the invitation of Monroe NAACP president Otis Chisely. 

Sharp questioned Johnson’s line of thought saying it seemed to him that everybody who bid on the project got the same bid package and instructions.

Johnson responded the instructions were ambiguous.

EnviroTech, a minority owned company with offices in New Orleans and Houston, submitted the lowest bid on May 26 of $34.1 million but the bid was rejected because the city claimed it did not meet state bid law specifications and that the surety company involved was not licensed to do business in Louisiana.

The city eventually awarded the contract to Lincoln Builders of Ruston Inc. even though its bid was $340,000 more than the one from EnviroTech.

EnviroTech’s attorneys claim Lincoln Builders, who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit, did not include its DBE form, which stipulates how much work will go to minority subcontractors, with its bid package.
However, the defense stated that an addendum sent to all parties stated the DBE form was not due until 24 hours after the bids were opened.

So far, only three witnesses of the more than 15 listed to testify have been called to the stand. They were EnviroTech’s president and managing partner Lloyd Broussard, Samuel Stewart, a company engineer and Diane Holt, the company vice president of finances.

The company filed a lawsuit in June seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the project until the court could hear evidence why it shouldn’t be allowed a permanent injunction and the bid awarded to EnviroTech.

Sharp originally ruled in favor of the city, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals sent the case back for further hearings and gave the judge 10 days to set the hearing. The 10th day was Sunday.

Judge questions president of company challenging airport bid contract

 

By Johnny Gunter • jgunter@thenewsstar.com • August 30, 2009

The first five hours of a hearing in which more than 15 people were called to testify saw testimony from only person, EnviroTech Services president and managing partner Lloyd Broussard.

Broussard was questioned about his company’s bid bond on the new Monroe Regional Airport terminal being in compliance with state bid laws.

The minority owned business out of New Orleans was apparently the low bidder on the estimated $35 million airport terminal project, but its bid was rejected by the city of Monroe because city officials said the bid bond did not meet state law requirements.

The company then filed a lawsuit seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the project until the court could hear evidence why it shouldn’t be allowed a permanent injunction and the bid awarded to EnviroTech.

After the company’s $34.1 million bid was rejected, the Monroe City Council eventually awarded the project to Lincoln Builders of Ruston with a bid that was $340,000 higher, but was the best responsive and responsible bid, city officials claimed.

At 9 p.m. Sunday, a battery of lawyers, including four for EnviroTech and six for the defendants — the city of Monroe and Lincoln Builders — had finished questioning Broussard but 4th District Judge Alvin Sharp began his questioning.

Shortly before 10 p.m., the judge recessed court until 9:30 a.m. Monday.

Sharp had earlier ruled in favor of the city and Lincoln Builders, but the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals in Shreveport sent the case back for another hearing.

Before court started at 4 p.m. Sunday, Sharp sent a written statement to the attorneys that their questioning should focus on EnviroTech’s bid bond and not any other issues.

On Aug. 20, the 2nd Circuit in its ruling said the hearing should be held within 10 days. Sharp, who has been hearing arguments in the case, had a full schedule in Morehouse Parish last week, so he scheduled the hearing for Sunday afternoon on the 10th day.

Judge tells litigants in airport suit he needs evidence not arguments

 

By Johnny Gunter • jgunter@thenewsstar.com • September 1, 2009

Fourth District Court Judge Alvin Sharp ended the third day of testimony today in the lawsuit involving the new Monroe Regional Airport terminal project by abruptly leaving the courtroom and simply telling litigants that he would see them Wednesday.

The judge twice admonished the 10 lawyers involved in the case during the day for spending too much time arguing the same point. He told the lawyers that he could not accept their spiels as evidence and that he needed documents.

“Show it to me and I’ll call a spade a spade and that’s just the way it is,” Sharp said. “The only way I can see it is for you to put it before my eyes.”

EnviroTech Services LLC, a minority owned company with offices in New Orleans and Houston, submitted the lowest bid on May 26 of $34.1 million, but the bid was rejected because the city claimed it did not meet state bid law specifications and that the surety company involved was not licensed to do business in Louisiana.

The city eventually awarded the contract to Lincoln Builders of Ruston Inc. even though its bid was $340,000 more than the one from EnviroTech. Officials said the Ruston company was the lowest responsible and responsive bidder.

Only one witness was heard today and that was Perry Thomas, the former compliance officer for the city of Monroe.

Thomas’ testimony centered on affirmative action, Disadvantaged Business Enterprise, Equal Employment Opportunity and other civil rights issues.

Plaintiff’s attorneys Charles Jones and Ernest Johnson, the state NAACP president, attempted all morning to have Thomas certified as an expert witness on contracts and bid bonds.

The defendants’ attorneys tried to keep him from being approved as an expert. Sharp eventually ruled that he could testify as a “review expert on bid bonds” because of his 25 years of experience with the city. Defendants in the case are the city and Lincoln Builders.

Thomas testified that it was his opinion that the city’s newspaper advertisement and invitation for bids were not detailed enough, according to federal regulations and testified that other cities throughout the state are much more precise with wording their advertisements.

Much of his testimony was continuously interrupted by Lincoln Builders lawyers Russell Wray, Tom Hayes and Tyler Storm.

The city is being represented by city attorney Nanci Summersgill and her assistant, Aisha Clark.

Right before Sharp’s first admonishment, Summersgill asked the judge to have everyone stay focused on the judge’s original order that only the “bid bond” issue be addressed.

Thomas tried to testify that Lincoln Builders’ bid bond also had issues, but Wray objected that was outside the scope of the hearing and that information was not presented.

Thomas also said that Mayor Jamie Mayo had signed an agreement with the Federal Aviation Administration that he would do all in his power, including waiving the bid bond, so that minority companies could participate.

Wray asked Thomas if that included having the mayor break state law bid requirements to do so.

The plaintiffs are trying to show that federal law supersedes state law when federal funds are involved in a project. The defendants are arguing that it’s a state project and that state law would govern the bid process.

Summersgill said plaintiffs are trying to prove that their bid bond qualifies Federal Acquisition Regulations, “but they don’t even come close there either.”

Wray said the plaintiff’s surety company, Affinity Assurance out of Texas, put up property that had a lien against it and there was no appraisal, which is required under federal law.

http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=111_cong_bills&docid=f:h1enr.pdf

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