Clark County commissioners are being pulled deeper into a feud between two rival contractors battling for a lucrative road-widening job on the Las Vegas Beltway.
The commission's insistence in choosing Las Vegas Paving over Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., even though Fisher's bid was $4.6 million lower, has led to the project being stalled again.
A federal judge this week ordered the project frozen until an Aug. 24 hearing, although he has yet to sign a written injunction.
Fisher bid $112.2 million and Las Vegas Paving bid $116.8 million to improve the Beltway between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way.
Fisher, based in North Dakota, contends that commissioners indulged in union bias and favoritism by twice awarding Las Vegas Paving the contract against the advice of their legal counsel.
"We've alleged in the complaint that Clark County commissioners ... have contrived a reason to deny Fisher Sand and Gravel the bid," said Stanley Parry, Fisher's attorney.
In April, commissioners chose Las Vegas Paving, saying that 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.
Two weeks ago, commissioners rejected Fisher again. This time, several of them argued Fisher was irresponsible because three high-ranking officials were convicted of tax fraud and the company racked up safety and pollution violations in other states.
Commissioner Steve Sisolak cited the alleged misconduct.
Parry accused Sisolak of being a union puppet. Las Vegas Paving hires union labor, whereas Fisher runs nonunion crews, he said.
Making accusations without warning in a public forum gave Fisher no chance to refute them, Parry said. "The idea that somehow we're not a responsible bidder is totally ridiculous," he said.
Sisolak talked with Tommy Fisher, the company president, a couple of days before the meeting and told him he respected Fisher but was getting union pressure, Parry said.
At no time did Sisolak indicate he would attack Fisher, Parry said.
"He blindsided us," he said.
Fisher has found that Las Vegas Paving committed similar violations as the ones Sisolak dug up on Fisher, Parry said, adding that Fisher will present its findings in federal court.
Sisolak said he met with Fisher's president but never expressed support for the contractor. And he added: "I was never pressured by any union."
He said he learned of Fisher's violations through online research. A similar background search of Las Vegas Paving turned up only one significant infraction, he said.
Commissioner Tom Collins said it's not unusual for the county to reject lower bidders if they have questionable records or credentials.
He dismissed Parry's claim of union bias and lambasted the lawyer for spouting those accusations at the commission meeting.
"We give more work to nonunion contractors than union shops," Collins said. "Stan Parry was out of line, unprofessional and acting desperately in his comments."
Contact reporter Scott Wyland at email@example.com or 702-455-4519.