ELIZABETH, NJ — A Wayne-based construction company is suing Union County and the Union County Improvement Authority with claims that the entities violated state bidding laws in seeking developers to build a new county government complex.
The complex, planned for the site of the county’s motor vehicle services division in Elizabeth, will allow the county to move all its administrative services into two new buildings. County Manager Edward Oatman said in August that the project would cost between $100 million and $145 million. Officials have said it would eliminate rents the county pays for existing office space.
The Elizabeth City Council had designated the Union County Improvement Authority as the redevelopment entity for the project at 61-99 West Grand St.
In their complaint, Dobco claims the Authority acted “without any intent of awarding the contract to the lowest responsible bidder” when it requested proposals for the planning, design and construction of the complex, which is contrary to New Jersey’s Local Public Contracts Law. That law regulates contracts for public projects. The complaint claims the county bypassed the public bidding law by soliciting bids pursuant to the Local Redevelopment and Housing Law.
“We do not believe that where the Improvement Authority is wearing a redevelopment hat, they are somehow excused from Local Public Contracts Law,” Dobco’s attorney Greg Trif, of Trif & Modugno, told TAPinto in a phone interview. Trif said the Authority is subject to the public bidding law to “avoid corruption, favoritism and extravagance, and promote competition.”
David Minchello, an attorney with Rainone, Coughlin and Minchello, who is representing the Union County Improvement Authority, claims Dobco’s suit is without merit.
“Dobco voluntarily participated in this competitive process, without objection, and was not selected to move forward for consideration,” Minchello said in a statement. “It is disappointing that they have now sought meritless litigation in an attempt to reinsert themselves into the selection process and gain an unfair advantage over their competitors.”
“Please note that Union County and the Union County Improvement Authority have complied with all applicable laws and look forward to defending its process in Court,” Minchello added.
The Authority and county have not yet selected an entity to build the complex or entered into a Planned Public Improvement Agreement, but Dobco seeks a judgment that would stop the authority from proceeding with its solicitation.
Trif said they are now working on preliminarily restraining the Authority from proceeding with its solicitation. A court hearing in that matter is scheduled for March 2, court records show.