The Harford County school board deferred until Monday a vote on the construction contract for a new middle school in Fallston after learning that the low bidder recently pleaded guilty to violating state minority subcontracting laws.
Larry Klimovitz, the county administrator, sought the delay so that officials could investigate a Baltimore Circuit Court case involving the H.A. Harris Corp. of Towson, which submitted a $9.31 million bid to build the Fallston school that will have a capacity of 900 students.
Klimovitz said he was responding to letters sent to the school board by Triangle General Contracting of Anne Arundel County, which was the second-lowest bidder on the Fallston project by $8,000. The letters mentioned Harris' guilty pleas, Klimovitz said.
"Now that the flag has been raised, it's our responsibility to look BTC into it," Klimovitz said, adding that officials were trying to determine whether procurement rules would prevent Harris from being awarded the contract.
"It's not crystal clear," Klimovitz said yesterday, after meeting with county attorneys. Because of the importance of the contract and its size, he asked, "Is this the kind of company we want to be doing business with?"
Scott A. Livingston, an attorney for Harris, said, "The county has a duty to fairly consider our bid. And we have confidence that the county will do so."
Last winter in Baltimore Circuit Court, Harris pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy involving a 1988 contract to construct a State Highway Administration building in Carroll County and one count of conspiracy involving a 1986 contract to modernize a public housing complex in Baltimore.
According to a statement of facts entered in the case, Harris, in an attempt to satisfy requirements that minority firms get a percentage of government contracts, conspired with a subcontractor to falsely claim that certain work was done by a minority firm.
Sentencing in the case, which involves misdemeanor violations of the state minority business enterprise laws, is set for Monday .
Al Seymour, a spokesman for the school board, said the board has scheduled another vote on the contract for 4:30 p.m. Monday .