A construction firm San Francisco is suing for
fraud must prove it is trustworthy enough to win a hefty contract
to work on the Bay Bridge, a state agency has ruled.
The extra step could slightly delay the start of a
project to strengthen the bridge's western span against earthquakes.
"Any delay will be minimal," said Caltrans
spokesman Dennis Trujillo. "We're looking at a few weeks more
of process, nothing more than that."
The state Department of Transportation decided that
it should hold a hearing into whether the Tutor-Saliba Corp. should
be considered "responsible" and given a $177.8 million
earthquake retrofit job. The contract was to be awarded Thursday,
with work starting very soon after, but a final decision has now
Caltrans came to its conclusion after Sacramento Administrative
Law Judge Jaime Rene Ramon said in a Jan. 28 recommendation that
giving Tutor-Saliba the contract without a hearing "would endanger
the public health, safety or welfare." No hearing date has
"A sufficient showing has been made that TSC
(Tutor-Saliba Corp.) has engaged in conduct of moral turpitude bearing
a clear nexus on its trustworthiness or fitness," Roman wrote.
The case against Tutor-Saliba began when one of its
competitors, C.C. Meyers/Balfour Beatty, a Rancho Cordova joint-venture
based in Rancho Cordova, Sacramento County, which bid $183.8 million,
filed a protest with Caltrans. The company argued that even though
Tutor-Saliba was the low bidder, it should be denied the project
because the company lacks "fitness and integrity."
That allegation centers on a Los Angeles County judge's
August 2001 ruling that Tutor-Saliba filed false claims and used
bogus minority subcontractors in building Los Angeles' subway. The
Los Angeles Metropolitan Transportation Authority was awarded $63
million, but Tutor-Saliba has appealed.
Company owner Ron Tutor seemed unfazed in a telephone
interview Thursday concerning C.C. Meyers/Balfour Beatty's challenge.
"We expect we will prevail," he said.
Tutor quickly changed the subject to the growing division
between City Attorney Dennis Herrera and the San Francisco Airport
Commission over whether to pursue Herrera's fraud lawsuit against
The Airport Commission has refused to pay for the
lawsuit, filed in November, which could cost $10 million in legal
bills. Mayor Willie Brown, who appoints the commission, also said
this week that the expense did not appear to be warranted.
"If he (Herrera) had any basis for filing it
that was factual and true, he shouldn't have any problem getting
money for it," Tutor said.
Herrera alleges that Tutor-Saliba violated city minority
contracting rules and over-billed the airport for millions of dollars
while building the new international terminal and related projects.
Airport commissioners have told Herrera that they
are not convinced his case is strong enough. Acting commission President
Larry Mazzola last month also wrote a letter asking Herrera to authorize
the commission to hire an outside attorney to review the evidence.
Herrera, who has made repeated presentations about
the evidence in the case to the commission and the Board of Supervisors,
wrote a letter back this week refusing to allow the commission to
hire an attorney for such a purpose.