A small construction firm at the center of a $150 million contract fight is accusing the Metropolitan St. Louis Sewer District of retaliation after it raised issues with the district’s minority contractor program.
A.L.L. Construction owner Anton Lumpkins sued the district and five members of the board of trustees Wednesday for lost profits and damage to the company’s reputation.
Lumpkins’ suit alleges that MSD began raising issues with his company’s work and eventually removed him from the controversial tunnel project after an April 2016 MSD board meeting where he accused another company of gaming MSD’s minority contractor rules.
“It was just out of the blue,” Lumpkins said in a press conference Wednesday at the offices of Pleban & Petruska, the law firm representing him. “I complained, thought I was doing the right thing, how naïve of me to think that somebody cared. Ever since then they’ve been coming. We’ve been kicked off two, three jobs.”
A.L.L is the second company to file suit against MSD after a rare vote by MSD trustees rejecting a staff-recommended contractor for the $150 million project. A joint venture led by Detroit-based Jay Dee Contractors sued the district after the board declined to confirm the firm’s bid, prompting the district to opt for the second-lowest bidder: SAK Construction of O’Fallon, Mo.
A judge ruled in June that the board was within its rights to not confirm Jay Dee’s contract. The company has not appealed.
That contract, which MSD first recommended be given to Jay Dee in September, is scheduled to receive a final vote awarding the project to SAK Construction on Thursday.
It was A.L.L.’s involvement in Jay Dee’s bid that appears to have caused MSD’s hesitation to award the contract to Jay Dee.
After coming in above Jay Dee’s bid, SAK argued A.L.L. wasn’t qualified to perform some of the work on the Deer Creek project, a 4-mile tunnel stretching from Clayton to Shrewsbury. It cited MSD’s decision in June 2016 to remove the company from its small contractors program.
MSD documents indicate staff received complaints from property owners and discovered poor worksmanship at one A.L.L. site. It removed A.L.L. from the small contractors program after the company didn’t fix the issues quickly enough, according to the memo. Lumpkin says that was retaliation for his complaints two months earlier.
In December, MSD trustees voted 5-1 against Jay Dee’s bid, and MSD staff later asked the company to remove A.L.L. from the package.
While MSD staff maintained it could ask for a subcontractor to be removed from a bid, some trustees were concerned that the bid couldn’t be changed in the middle of the process and opposed the award despite staff’s support.
Jay Dee received 3-2 vote from trustees in February, but on the final vote, one trustee, Michael Yates, changed his vote to a no, killing Jay Dee’s chances at the contract.
“There are a lot of questions about who this board is answering to if they’re not responsive to staff,” Lumpkins’ attorney, Lynette Petruska, said. “MSD’s ethics policy is so weak, people can be wining and dining them and you and me would never know it.”
An MSD spokesman said the district had not yet been served and would respond after it reviewed the suit.