Monday, February 21, 2011

February 21, 2011 TDOT: Wild Building Contractors Can Not Bid on Millennium Project Due to a Conflict of Interest

Neil Hansen with TDOT (Tennessee Department of Transportation) apparently informed the City of Morristown on 1/26/11 that it is the position of TDOT's legal counsel that Wild Building Contractors (WBC) can not bid to perform the construction work on the Millennium Project because of a conflict of interest. [Click once or twice on the e-mail at left to enlarge and read]

Hansen summarizes TDOT's position: WBC can not act as a subconsultant to the City's Architect (BIF) and then turn around and bid on the construction contract for this same project. [Click on the above page from BIF's Letter of Intent to enlarge and read]

Click here for a previous article with links to prior posts.

City Administrator Tony Cox did not inform council of this development during his Administrator's Report at council's 2/1/11 or 2/15/11 meeting. Todd Morgan has said nothing publicly. Nothing has been reported in the "news"paper.

The City filed a response last week, attaching a letter from Wild's Attorneys (Woolf, McClane, Bright, Allen, & Carpenter, PLLC) who in turn attached a letter from the Architects Brewer, Ingram & Fuller and other exhibits.

TDOT's position should not be surprising to potential bidders on the Millennium project. In addition to the conflict cited by TDOT, these contractors see many other conflicts of interest that unfairly tilt the bidding process in favor of the Wilds who are partners in Millennium Square Partnership and who, as MSP partners, are ultimately footing the bill for the Architect's fees.

At least two contractors who paid for plans and who initially planned to bid (Ed Hale Construction of Morristown and Inland Construction) have cited conflicts of interest involving WBC/David Wild/Tim Wild as the basis for pulling out of bidding on this Project.  I'm sure that these contractors and others who took out plans could provide a lot of additional information on conflicts of interest and appearances of impropriety in the pre-bid and post-award process.

Why is the Architect (BIF) trying to get Wild back on the bid list? Perhaps it is because the Wilds are partners in the Millennium Square group that is paying the City to cover the Architect's fees on the project.  

Now it is a waiting game to see if the City, BIF, and Wild can convince TDOT to reverse itself and decide that (1) when BIF asked Wild to prepare cost estimates, this was not a conflict of interest and (2) when BIF prepared its Letter of Intent and said that Wild was a proposed Consultant for Estimating, this was an "error," and (3) when Wild prepared estimates and/or helped with design suggestions, there was not a conflict because WBC never had a contract with BIF and never was a "paid" consultant on the project.

What could happen if Wild insists on bidding?  There are several possibilities. A prospective bidder could seek an injuction to stop or delay the bidding pending a determination by a court of the legality of Wild's participation in the bidding.  If the bidding proceeds and the construction contract is awarded to WBC, this could result in a lawsuit by an unsuccessful bidder. 

From the City's perspective, the worst possibility would be that Wild or even someone else gets the construction contract and there is a later finding of bid and/or post-award irregularities that could result in the City being required to reimburse TDOT for all state and federal funds expended on this project.

With the City's current financial mess, it certainly couldn't afford to pay back $1,400,000 + or - in grant funds. Right now, the City is not even certain that it will be able to buy a garbage truck by year's end.

A $1,400,000 + or - money trail leads to a lot of conflicts and a lot of switching money around.

The "Millennium money" was originally intended for Morristown College, not once, but TWICE!

Tomorrow, I will post on what the money was initially supposed to be used for and how financial mismanagement at City Hall prevented the money from being used at Morristown College as originally intended and led to the transfer to the Millennium group.  [UPDATE: Click here for the history of the Morristown College to Millennium money switch.]

No comments: