Integrity of Marshall Fire debris cleanup contract questioned in lawsuit

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Less than two weeks after a Boulder County District Court judge launched a lawsuit challenging the integrity of Boulder County’s bidding process for its Marshall debris cleanup contract Fire, another lawsuit was filed in the same court with some of the same allegations.

Ceres Environmental Services Inc., a Florida contractor that was not the successful bidder, is suing County and Boulder County Commission members, alleging that DRC Emergency Services LLC was awarded the contract after an appeals process. deals shrouded in secrecy and misrepresentation.

The lawsuit asks the court to overturn Boulder County’s decision to deny an appeal by Ceres and says a separate motion will be filed that will require the county to suspend its debris removal process while the lawsuit is heard.

“This lawsuit is without merit,” Boulder County Attorney Ben Pearlman said in a statement. “It’s heartbreaking that a large disaster management company unrelated to Colorado is trying to stop us from moving forward with the Marshall Fire recovery efforts. We’ve learned throughout this process that in the highly competitive with private disaster management companies, like Ceres, they focus more on the money than on the families affected by disasters.

Ceres’ lawsuit echoes in some ways a lawsuit filed earlier this year by former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown and his group Demanding Integrity in Government Spending, which accused the county for violating open meeting laws during the bidding process.

Judge Stephen Howard determined that Brown – who does not live in Boulder County and could not prove harm related to the DRC contract award – lacked standing to sue and dismissed the suit. case at the end of March.

DRC, which is not a defendant in Ceres’ lawsuit, is an “unqualified contractor who has neither the experience, the schedule, nor the price to justify the award” of the bid, they wrote. attorneys for Ceres in the lawsuit filed this week.

“Although the law requires an open and competitive bidding process, the process involved secret negotiations with DRC, undeclared and non-public requirements that were shared with DRC to the exclusion of other bidders, an inappropriate modification of the DRC proposal to distort its proposed timeline and an inflation of DRC’s rating by understating actual DRC prices and overstating DRC’s experience based on DRC diversion from the experience of other bidders, such as Ceres” and other bidders, the lawsuit alleges.

Ceres says DRC and fellow bidder ECC Constructors LLC had the opportunity to interview county officials and orally modify their bids to better perform on Boulder County’s 100-point scoring metric.

The lawsuit said “the DRC not only misrepresented its own prior experience, but falsely claimed experience from projects that Ceres and ECC successfully managed on major fire cleanup contracts on the West Coast.”

During recent offerings on the West Coast, where officials know better about the actors involved in past fires, Ceres says the DRC hasn’t touted its experience cleaning up California fires, assuming decision makers there would know which companies were actually responsible for working locally.

If the DRC’s bid had been more accurately submitted and assessed, it likely would not have been the winner, Ceres argues.

Boulder County officials, in a statement Thursday, said Ceres was the third bidder. So even if DRC hadn’t won the contract, Ceres wouldn’t necessarily have won either.

The applicant “was not one of two selected to be interviewed by the committee due to the large ratings gap between Ceres’ proposal and the two companies selected for interview,” the county said.

The allegedly flawed bidding process not only impacted Ceres’ ability to win a multimillion-dollar contract, but also jeopardizes Boulder County’s ability to receive cash reimbursement from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to the complaint.

The county counters that it “consulted not only with its internal experts and state officials who have expertise in Federal Emergency Management Agency grants, but also the Division of Homeland Security and Management State Emergencies and FEMA at all stages of the project and has received and incorporated recommendations to proceed at all times in accordance with FEMA requirements The County has also previously requested and received FEMA’s determination that the (debris removal) project is eligible for FEMA reimbursement.”

Boulder County officials said Thursday the plan to go ahead with debris cleanup as planned unless ordered to stop by a judge.

“The county will do everything in its power to prevent Ceres from disrupting the cleanup of the approximately 750 households that have chosen to participate in the (debris) program.”

This article was first published by BizWest, an independent news agency, and is published under a license agreement. © 2022 BizWestMedia LLC.

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