Beltway bids to get another look

Corrections
<b>CORRECTIONS:</b> This article in Wednesday’s Review-Journal mischaracterized the votes needed to approve a road-widening contract. Under state law, at least four Clark County commissioners must vote in favor of an action to ratify it, even if two commissioners on the seven-member board don’t participate.

A federal judge Tuesday ordered Clark County commissioners to reconsider bids yet again for a road-widening job on the Las Vegas Beltway, and two commissioners accused of pro-union bias will not participate.

U.S. District Court Judge Robert Jones overturned the commission's decision in July to award a road improvement contract to Las Vegas Paving, which bid $4.6 million higher than Fisher Sand and Gravel.

Jones ruled that the board must re-examine the bids and that Fisher should be allowed to address allegations made at a previous commission meeting. This is the second time the courts have ordered commissioners to revisit the disputed contract.

Commissioners Tom Collins and Steve Sisolak won't participate. Sisolak said he agreed to step aside to move the project forward.

"I want to get this out on the street, get the construction started and get people working," Sisolak said.

Fisher bid $112.2 million and Las Vegas Paving bid $116.8 million on a contract to widen the Las Vegas Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way.

The wrangling began in April, when commissioners chose Las Vegas Paving, saying at least two of Fisher's subcontractors weren't properly licensed.

A judge later ruled that Las Vegas Paving missed a deadline for protesting Fisher's bid and ordered commissioners to reconsider the bid award.

At a July 21 meeting, Sisolak read a history of Fisher's violations, including pollution, job safety, tax fraud and a sexual harassment charge against a company supervisor.

Commissioners rebuffed Fisher again, saying the company's record showed it was not a responsible contractor. Fisher sued Las Vegas Paving and the county, arguing that it was deprived of property -- in this case, a lucrative contract -- without due process of law.

Due process was denied because Fisher wasn't warned about the allegations that were raised impromptu, the company's representatives say.

Fisher's attorney argued vehemently that Sisolak and Collins had a strong union bias and, in turn, searched for reasons to reject Fisher because it's a nonunion contractor.

"We had a victory in court today, a major victory," attorney Stanley Parry said. "I think it's a total vindication of what happened to us at the last hearing."

The significance of sidelining Collins and Sisolak is uncertain. Fisher must win over three commissioners to obtain a majority; so far, only two have backed the contractor.

Collins said he'll obey Jones' order, even though he thinks it's questionable because Jones and Parry are active together in the same church.

"They are biased against the county and it's unfair," Collins said. "It's much greater than any perceived bias of the County Commission."

Collins has said the county gives out more work to nonunion contractors than to union shops.

Attorneys representing Las Vegas Paving did not return calls seeking comment.

Sisolak said that at no time did the judge find that he and Collins were biased. He said the judge ruled that Fisher wasn't given a chance to respond to a list of allegations aired at a meeting.

Sisolak said the list included a former company executive who was convicted in connection with a child pornography charge. Sisolak said that he found the item too repugnant to discuss at the time, but that it influenced his decision.

Parry said a local union fed commissioners the information about the child pornography case as a smear tactic. It's irrelevant because it involved someone who hasn't worked for Fisher in five years, Parry said.

Collins argued that it was one more black mark.

"It just piles up," he said.

Contact reporter Scott Wyland at swyland@reviewjournal.com or 702-455-4519.

 

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