Judge backs the state on I-35W bridge bid

  • Article by: JAMES WALSH , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 24, 2008 - 8:50 PM

Transportation officials acted within their discretion in choosing the Flatiron-Manson team, the ruling said.

State transportation officials acted correctly in choosing the construction team that replaced the Interstate 35W bridge, a Ramsey County district judge has ruled.

In issuing a summary judgment in favor of the Minnesota Department of Transportation and Colorado-based bridge builder Flatiron-Manson, Judge Edward Cleary ruled that the claims brought by two men with ties to Minnesota's construction industry are unsupported by case law.

The men, Scott Sayer and Wendell Anthony Phillippi, filed the suit last fall in an effort to nullify the state's $234 million contract with the Flatiron-Manson construction team -- chosen from four firms that had proposed replacing the bridge.

An attorney for the men said they will appeal the ruling.

Flatiron received the highest technical score from a committee that was formed to analyze design-build proposals and was awarded the contract in October 2007.

Sayer and Phillippi sued, saying the award of the contract to Flatiron was illegal and the result of an "arbitrary and capricious process."

In his ruling Thursday, however, Cleary said the state's process for selecting Flatiron was proper given the challenges of quickly replacing the bridge. Flatiron-Manson finished building the bridge last month, months ahead of schedule. He said state officials acted within their authority and expertise.

"Under the design-build, best value approach, utilized here by Defendant MnDOT in part because of the emergency nature of the need for rapid construction, agency discretion is inherent in the statutory scheme," Cleary wrote. Basically, the state had the discretion to choose Flatiron.

Dean Thomson, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said: "We respectfully disagree with the judge."

Thomson said summary judgments are appropriate when both parties accept the facts of a case. That is not the case here. His clients will continue seeking what is called a "declaratory judgment" -- for the court to rule that the contract was illegal.

James Walsh • 612-673-7428

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