Friday, May 18, 2001

Bidder sues Oxford over deal for garage

Local firm got contract despite higher price

By Janice Morse
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        OXFORD — A lawsuit alleges that the city “secretly selected” a local firm to build a municipal parking garage, making “the legally required bidding process a sham and unlawful.”

        “I'm not going to respond to those words. ... Obviously, we think we're acting in the best interests of the city,” City Manager Jane Howington said Thursday.

        In a lawsuit filed Tuesday in Butler County Common Pleas Court, Warm Brothers Construction Co. of Cincinnati and Hamilton architect Robert J. Treadon allege they never got a fair shot at a contract for the parking garage to be erected at Main and Walnut streets.

        Mr. Treadon, working with Warm Brothers, bid $2.21 million for the project. The only other bidder, Hotel Development Services (HDS) of Oxford, bid $2.65 million.

        Despite that $438,000 difference, the city awarded the contract to HDS — the same company that is preparing to build a 60-room hotel nearby.

        “The city of Oxford never intended to hire anyone else,” Mr. Treadon said Thursday.

        “The city is involved in misconduct and collusion in the bidding and award process.”

        A receptionist at HDS said the only person who could comment, Jim Clawson, a part-owner of the company, was unavailable Thursday.

        The city decided to proceed with HDS on Tuesday, hours after a Butler County judge refused to block the deal. But Mr. Treadon said that doesn't deter him from pressing forward with the lawsuit, which seeks damages of at least $140,000.

        Ms. Howington said Mr. Treadon's bid was rejected because his plans didn't conform to the city's Historic and Architectural Preservation Commission guidelines.

        Mr. Treadon, however, alleges that some design criteria were withheld from him, that his bid met all of the specifications listed in a newspaper legal notice — and that HDS' bid did not.

        It was particularly odd for the city to select HDS, he said, because HDS apparently has no experience on comparable projects, while Warm Brothers has constructed at least eight parking garages worth more than $25 million total.

        Further, Mr. Treadon said, HDS obtained construction easements on city-owned sites before the project was advertised for public bid. “They also obtained zoning variances and approvals from City Council and Cinergy,” he said.

        “Why would all this be done before even submitting a bid?”

        Randy McNutt contributed to this report.


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