Contractor threatens $225K lawsuit over BB pier bids

contractor that lost out on the construction bid for the Historic Bridge Street Pier the first time around, may sue the city of Bradenton Beach.

Pac Comm Inc., a Miami-based company with an office locally, has retained legal representation and may sue the city for $225,000 in alleged lost profits.

In a certified letter to the city, Pac Comm attorney William Sowa III, of the Law Office of Walter Sowa III, wrote, “My client will have no choice but to consider all legal options, including litigation, seeking all damages available by law, including attorney’s fees.”

City attorney Ricinda Perry described the company’s notice as an “undercurrent of legal threats” coming to the city.

“It’s hard for me to understand how they are claiming damages when they weren’t awarded the bid the first time around,” said Perry. “I’m certain it’s going to be a big challenge for them to support their claims legally.”

Perry said the city eventually could file a counter suit alleging tortious interference or harassment.

In his letter, Sowa said the city violated Florida Statute 225.20, which says a municipality must competitively award a contract to a licensed contractor.

Sowa alleges that ZNS Engineering, the company that analyzed the bids, illegally displayed favoritism when it recommended the award to Duncan Seawall Dock and Boatlift LLC based on its prior work history with the city.

Duncan had the highest bid of the three companies considered.

Pac Comm submitted the lowest bid, proposed the shortest construction duration and had the highest score on the bid evaluation matrix crafted by ZNS.

Steve Gilbert, Bradenton Beach building official, said Pac Comm wasn’t considered because he felt 100 days to complete the project was unrealistic.

The two other companies predicted a time duration of 170-175 days.

On May 22, the commission awarded the contract to Duncan, and Pac Comm immediately protested the award.

The commission reversed the contractor award June 5, canceling all bids after Tampa Bay Marine, of Gibsonton, submitted a second bid protest, saying it wasn’t considered by the commission, despite being recommended along with Duncan Seawall by ZNS Engineering.

A new request for proposal posted by the city June 11 includes an electrical component that was not in the original bid request.

Sowa also alleges that the bid cancellation violated Florida statutes.

According to Sowa, cities may reject bids for five reasons: budgetary reasons; if the bidder misstates or conceals a material fact; if the bid does not conform to the law or or is non responsive; if the bid is conditional; and if there is a change of circumstances.

“The city of Bradenton Beach did not reject the bids for any of these five reasons,” Sowa wrote. “Without these limitations, the purpose of a competitive bidding is circumvented. Rejection of all bidders then becomes a means of allowing a favored bidder another chance to submit a low bid.”

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