Contractor sues city for $5.9M over snow removal after blizzards

The Delmarva Group says city failed to pay for services during 2010 snowstorms

March 09, 2011|By Jessica Anderson, The Baltimore Sun

A Glen Burnie plowing contractor is suing the city for $5.9 million, alleging it has not been paid for snow removal services during the snowstorms of February 2010.

"When there was snow up to our necks, they were glad to make a deal," said attorney Andrew D. Freeman, who is representing the Delmarva Group. "The city now regrets the deal it made" and has not paid the bill, he said. Delmarva filed suit Wednesday in city Circuit Court.

The suit alleges Delmarva submitted a bid of $350 per hour per piece of equipment, which the city accepted. Company employees and subcontractors worked over 10 days, completing 21,500 hours of work.

The lawsuit "is not a surprise," said City Solicitor George Nilson. He said the company has not properly documented its work. Delmarva is "the only contractor for the year to fail to provide support for its claims. Everyone else had a purchase order," he said, adding that everyone else also had a much lower rate.

According to Delmarva's complaint, the company's president, C. Richard Benson Jr., called City Hall to learn about working for the city on Feb. 10 and was transferred to the city fire marshal, who obtained authorization from a Department of Finance employee over the phone. The fire marshal told Benson to fax over the quote, assuring Benson that "your quote is your contract; just fax it over," according to the complaint. An employee of Benson's faxed the price quote to officials, and Benson's employees began working, the complaint said.

While the city has alleged the documentation wasn't sufficient, Freeman said "that makes no sense," since the documents for the subcontractors were considered sufficient and paid.

Nilson said that subcontractors were paid because they provided necessary paperwork, and some said they weren't contacted by Delmarva.

Freeman said Delmarva's bill totaled $7.5 million, but because the subcontractors recruited by Delmarva were paid, the company is asking for the remaining $5.9 million.

If the city did not accept the rate Delmarva quoted, Freeman said, it should still be expected to pay for completed work. Based on rates paid to other contractors, that would mean the city owes Delmarva at least $2 million, he said.

Freeman said that not only did the city accept Delmarva's bid, it encouraged Delmarva to do more work.

In an e-mail provided by Freeman, which was mentioned in the complaint, Parvathy Murali, chief of fiscal services for the city's Transportation Department, wrote to department officials about a vendor with a quote of $7 million. "Our inspectors agree with his equipment and rate and he is one of our top five vendors who are working here and they need him to continue to work," the e-mail says.

Nilson said, "I don't doubt they did some work."

"The city was free to hire other people," Freeman said, adding that Delmarva had other work, but "the city accepted Delmarva's bid."

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