The Board of Education awarded a $9.3 million school construction contract to an Anne Arundel County builder last week, after withdrawingsupport for a Towson company that had pleaded guilty to violating state minority subcontracting laws.
On Monday, the school board gavethe Fallston Middle School contract to the second-lowest bidder, Triangle General Contractors Inc., of Hanover.
School Superintendent Ray Keech intended to recommend the lowest bidder, H. A. Harris Corp. of Towson. Its bid to build the 900-student school was $8,000 less than Triangle's bid.
But the board postponed consideration of the contract at its Dec. 9 meeting to review a case in Baltimore Circuit Court, where Harris admitted it falsely claimed a minority sub-contractor worked on two public works projects.
A lawyer for Triangle sent letters to the school board, county executive and state's attorney arguing that Harris was not a "responsible"company to perform the Fallston contract.
The two misdemeanor conspiracy pleas involved a 1988 contract to build a State Highway Administration building in Carroll County and a 1986 project in Baltimore to renovate a public housing complex.
Harris president Paul Brodietold the school board that his company fabricated invoices to make it appear that it was complying with requirements to sub-contract somework to minority firms.
The company was placed on probation before judgment Monday.
Judge Kenneth Johnson ordered the company to pay a $20,000 fine and do $100,000 in renovations on a Baltimore Salvation Army center.
Harris also agreed to open its minority contracting practices for review by an independent monitor for the next five years.
A person or company who receives probation before judgment keeps a clear criminal record, as long as the probation terms aren't violated.
Scott Livingston, an attorney for Harris, told the board that the company should not be further penalized.
"Harris hasn't been found guilty because we cooperated with the prosecutor," he said.
Livingston added that the court order guarantees Harris will meetthe terms of the contract because it would be barred from public works projects if the company again violates the law, and "will be put out of business."
Harris built the Ring Factory Elementary School near Bel Air that opened last year. Brodie said he intends to bid nextyear on a contract to build an elementary school in the Route 543 area of Bel Air.
While the board debated whether to award the contract to Harris in a closed session Monday, Brodie complained outside the meeting that denying him the Fallston contract would have the same effect as barring him as a school system contractor.
School systemattorney Patrick Spicer said Tuesday that the board "made a decisionthat Harris was not the lowest responsible bidder on this particularproject. As to what it would mean in the future, that would have to be determined at that time."