Lawsuit filed against TCSS: Construction company questions system for bidding projects

Published 10:48 pm Thursday, May 3, 2018

A lawsuit was filed in Troup County Superior Court on behalf of a construction company Thursday, calling into question the bidding process used by the Troup County School System to award projects.

In the suit, LaGrange-based Torrance Construction Company alleges it was not scored fairly when the TCSS was determining the winning bidder for the new Clearview Elementary School construction project and the gymnasium builds at Troup High School and LaGrange High School. Torrance was not awarded any of those projects. 

“The end result of the unlawful actions of the defendants is that the plaintiff has been deprived of $737,000, in project fees it would have been due had it received due process of law in the awarding of the government projects,” the lawsuit reads. “More importantly, the taxpayers of Troup County have wasted $1,343,766, in additional project fees above and beyond the lowest bids submitted by an undeniably responsible bidder.”

The projects are each being paid for using E-SPLOST funding. 

“More important to Mr. Torrance is that we figure out what is going on, so it doesn’t continue for us or other people,” said attorney Neal Callahan, who is representing the plaintiff, Torrance Construction in the case. “It’s very important for Mr. Torrance that we ensure that the taxpayer’s money is being used for the most responsible bidder that is also the lowest, and it cannot be argued that he’s not a responsible bidder.”

According to the lawsuit, the Troup County School System uses the construction manager at risk process to select the winning bidder, as evaluated through a five-person panel. Each company is scored on a scale of 1 to 100 based on four different criteria — project approach (35 points), project team (25 points), project fee (20 points), relevant project experience (20 points).

“The school district is aware of the suit, and prior to it having been filed had been supplied with a draft copy of the complaint,” said Jeff Todd, law partner of Troup County School Board attorney John Taylor. “While I am not inclined to discuss the specifics of the allegations, we are confident in the district’s methods of bidding the projects at issue and look forward to demonstrating the propriety of the project awards to the court.” 

The lawsuit says Torrance Construction Company received the highest overall score — a 91 — from the panel for the Troup High School gymnasium project. However, the plaintiff alleges that the scores were recalculated, after which Torrance Construction Company’s score was the only one that lowered, falling to an 84.6. Two other finalists saw their scores rise, moving Torrance to the third-place slot for the bid, according to the lawsuit. 

“The evaluation forms for the Troup County High School, the way they are marked up and altered is what really puts light on this case,” said Callahan, an attorney at Waldrep, Mulllin and Callahan in Columbus. 

Included in the 58-page lawsuit are documents that show the scoring for each project in question.

“The changes completely altered the results, with the end result being the Plaintiff (although it had the lowest fee by $340,000) coming in last place,” the lawsuit reads. “The ultimate result is Troup County taxpayers paying hundreds of thousands of additional dollars in fees for the project.”

After bidding for work on Clearview Elementary, the lawsuit alleges that Torrance Construction Company was not allowed to be part of the interview process, despite finishing in the top three of total scores. The lawsuit alleges that the school system paid more than $500,000 in additional fees by awarding the bid to Carroll Daniel, the chosen contractor. 

The lawsuit also says that Torrance submitted a proposal for the LaGrange High School gymnasium that was almost identical to the one submitted for the Troup High School gymnasium. After being in the top three for the LaGrange High project, Torrance’s bid for the Troup High project did not crack the top five.

The lawsuit also mentions renovations to Career Technology Agriculture Education labs at Callaway High School, LaGrange High School and Troup High School, alleging that the Torrance bid was lower than the winning bidder by $48,766, but did not receive the project. 

The lawsuit also says that the school system did not conduct interviews with any firms for a project at Hollis Hand Elementary, and Torrance did not receive the bid.

The lawsuit also notes that Torrance Construction Company has done work for the school system before, including construction of Callaway Middle School in 2002 and the Callaway High School multipurpose building in 2013.

Work on the Troup High School gymnasium and Clearview Elementary is ongoing. Work has not started on the LaGrange High School gymnasium, according to an interview with Assistant Superintendent John Radcliffe in mid-April.