The Town of , something Attorney Michael J. Barnaby said is illegal, and ‘hints favoritism.’
Levitt Board member Stuart McCarthy, who is the project manager for the construction of the new Levitt Pavilion, said the town opted to go with Verdi Construction because they were the more qualified company. Of the six bids Westport accepted for the job, .
In a five-page letter to First Selectman Gordon Joseloff and Westport Purchasing Officer Richard Kotchko, Barnaby, who represents Dolphin Construction, stated, “It is indicative of favoritism, and it undermines the object and integrity of the competitive bidding laws.’
McCarthy said the decision to go with by the Public Site and Building Commission.
“All decisions of the town have been above board and transparent,” McCarthy said Wednesday afternoon.
McCarthy said Dolphin’s bid was not accepted ‘based on them not being qualified to do the work.’ Their initial bid for the project was $5.8 million, while Verdi’s bid came in at $6.066 million.
“There are specific skills required for this job pertaining to working in the landfill site. Dolphin didn’t have the prerequisite qualifications for that work,” McCarthy said.
Barnaby referred in his letter to the Connecticut General Statute (4a-100) known as the ‘prequalified statute.’ This law ‘requires that all bidders on public construction projects become prequalified to perform work on such projects,’ Barnaby wrote.
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Barnaby further alleged that Westport violated a state law (Connecticut General Statute 4b-91) requiring “that contracts for the construction projects utilizing state funds must be awarded to the ‘lowest, responsible qualified bidder.’”
After the bids were revised, Dolphins’ bid stood at $6.033 million, while Verdi Construction’s bid was $6.128 million, which was the bid Westport accepted for the job.
“Dolphin, a prequalified contractor in the State of Connecticut, submitted the lowest bid and must be awarded the contract to protect the integrity of state law and the public bidding process,” Barnaby wrote in his letter.
Dolphin has significant experience working on municipal projects and was qualified to construct the new Levitt Pavilion, according to Barnaby.
“Dolphin won the bid fair and square and it is in the best interest of the taxpayers that they award the contract to Dolphin,” Barnaby said in a phone interview Wednesday, adding that Dolphins' bid was more than $200,000 less expensive than Verdi’s.
Barnaby said that Verdi Construction was also not qualified to work with solid waste, which was the issue the town was most concerned about.
“Working with solid waste is dealt with by hiring a consultant,” he said.
Barnaby stated that Dolphin demonstrated to the Levitt Committee its experience working with ‘environmentally sensitive areas.’ The company also indicated their intent to use specific subcontractors and consultants when necessary, Barnaby said.
Westport stated that ‘preference will be given to contractors with experience on solid waste landfills,’ according to Barnaby. A municipality cannot narrow down the bid selection process any further than Connecticut’s prequalification process, he said.
“I think that’s favoritism,” Barnaby said of the town’s use of the word ‘preference’ in the bid process. “It becomes arbitrary in making any determination.”
Assistant Town Attorney Gail Kelly said she is very carefully going over the letter and Barnaby’s position.
“I am analyzing the letter and have not responded yet,” Kelly said Wednesday.
Barnaby said his client is ‘seriously considering’ filing a civil suit against the town of Westport, but acknowledged that he had not heard from Westport town officials yet concerning his letter.
“We hope that Westport is going to reconsider and do the right thing here,” Barnaby said. “Contractors invest their time putting their bids together, trusting that municipalities and the state will follow the rules. It upsets the integrity of the whole bidding process when a municipality decides that it is not going to award to the lowest bidder.”
Barnaby concludes his letter to town officials by stating:
“Dolphin respectfully demands that the Town refrain from the award of the contract to Verdi Construction or to any other bidder and further demands that the Town properly award the contract to the lowest qualified bidder, Dolphin Construction Group.
"Dolphin reserves the right to seek immediate judicial relief concerning this contract, including injunctive relief and a declaration that any award of the contract is void.”