State, firm end dispute over crime lab contract

Contractor drops lawsuit, is cleared of wrongdoing

May 20, 2004|By Michael Dresser | Michael Dresser,SUN STAFF

The state and a rejected contractor have settled their differences over the award of a contract to build a $23 million state police crime lab in Pikesville, allowing the long-delayed project to go forward.

General Services Secretary Boyd K. Rutherford told the Board of Public Works yesterday that he and Roy Kirby Jr., president of Baltimore-based Roy Kirby & Sons, reached an agreement in a meeting last week.

Under the deal, Kirby agreed to drop a lawsuit challenging the board's decision to let the department award the crime lab work to rival contractor P.J. Dick. Kirby will also drop its protests before the Board of Contract Appeals alleging that the department acted improperly when it canceled one round of bidding, which the Baltimore company had won, and disqualified it in a second round.

In return, Rutherford absolved Kirby of wrongdoing in connection with the contract award and stated that the company will be eligible to bid on future state contracts.

After the board decided two weeks ago to award the contract, in spite of Kirby's protest to the contract appeals board, the company obtained a temporary restraining order in Baltimore County Circuit Court barring the state from completing the award.

The order expired Friday, and P.J. Dick has received the green light to proceed, said General Services Department spokesman Anne Hubbard. She said the new crime lab, which will replace the antiquated facility the state police currently use, is expected to be completed in September 2005.

Roy Kirby appeared at the meeting yesterday to say he was satisfied with the deal he hammered out with Rutherford at a meeting Thursday -- with no lawyers or aides present -- in a local restaurant.

"I'm very happy with the outcome," he told the board.

Kirby said he decided to seek a settlement after receiving advice that even a victory before the appeals board would not necessarily mean his company would get the work.

In other matters, the board refused to approve a University System of Maryland contract with Baltimore to purchase a city-owned vacant lot at 211 Pearl St. for $18,900. Board members contended that the city should sell the surplus property to the state for $1, as is customary with many transactions between state and local governments.

Comptroller William Donald Schaefer accused Mayor Martin O'Malley of charging the state out of spite. "It's a dirty deal," the former mayor said.

However, O'Malley spokesman Racquel Guillory said the mayor had no knowledge of the transaction because disposition of surplus property is handled by the city comptroller. A spokeswoman for Comptroller Joan M. Pratt said she didn't know how Pratt would respond to the board action.

Schaefer began the meeting by complaining about The Sun's coverage of his comments at the board meeting May 5, when he expressed dissatisfaction with the service he received from a McDonald's counter worker with limited English skills.

Schaefer suggested that certain Sun reporters and editors were trying to discredit him through the paper's coverage of the controversy his remarks generated. The comptroller punctuated his point by unwrapping a copy of The Sun and letting a plastic fish fall out -- implying that it was the best use for the newspaper.

Schaefer restated his belief that "people who come to this country should speak English."

Tim Franklin, Sun editor and senior vice president, said, "We were not trying to discredit Mr. Schaefer. We were simply covering his remarks and the considerable reaction they generated. I do agree with Mr. Schaefer, however, that The Sun has many valuable uses after it has been read."

In an interview yesterday, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., who had supported Schaefer's comments from the May 5 meeting, called his remarks "common sense."

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