City, contractor in dispute over sewer project

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

A Murfreesboro contractor has sued Lewisburg's Water and Wastewater Department for $82,000, claiming it's not been paid for completing a sewer line along Old Belfast Road, according to court records.

"We don't feel like the job was completed," City Attorney Bill Haywood said Monday when asked about the case and statements from Wescad Inc. attorney Robert Carter. "There's a punch list to be completed," Haywood said.

While money is at the root of the complaint, Wescad also alleges the utility: called for bids on the job; got prices of $369,600 and $433,800; rejected both bids, and; hired a contractor who was "allegedly acting as the owner of Wescad" when he was not the owner or a representative of the Murfreesboro company.

Now, that mystery man, Richard Stuard, is no where to be found, although it's believe he's in Florida, Carter said on Friday, explaining, "He cannot be found. When he walked off the job, he turned off his cellphone."

The dispute indicates that Stuard, or a company he represented -- supposedly a subcontractor for Wescad -- was paid the lion's share of the amount allocated for the sewer job, thereby, allegedly leaving Wescad with more work than money available for that work.

Wescad's complaint was the subject of a closed attorney-client meeting in City Hall earlier this month when the City Council was advised of the status of the case. The suit was filed Dec. 1 in Marshall County Chancery Court where the city's answer: denies various allegations; admits some statements such as its payment to Wescad for work after Stuard disappeared, and; claims no knowledge of other assertions.

The city admits State Farm Fire & Casualty Co. issued a performance bond on Oct. 4, 2007, naming Wescad as obliged to deliver on the sewer construction contract.

However, the city says it doesn't know that "Stuard of R&J Monolithics" paid the bond premium without Wescad's knowledge. The city does admit that R&J started work on the sewer job and that R&J was paid for some of the work.

A year ago, the city contacted Wescad to finish the job started by what might appear to be a Wescad subcontractor, the court record indicate.

Wescad "was unaware of a contract between Wescad and R&J and the city therefore lacks the capacity to sue prior to its acceptance" of a completed project, Carter said Friday.

Both sides agree that they met on Feb. 26, 2008, but the city says it doesn't know whether State Farm told Wescad to complete the project.

Wescad alleges breach of contract, violation of the bid laws, negligent misrepresentation, fraud and deceit, asserting the city knew Stuard was not the owner of Wescad. The city denies that.

"Wescad is claiming Stuard didn't represent them," the city attorney said Monday, "but we think he presented enough to show that he was Wescad.

"We don't believe he was officially associated with Wescad, but they had done business with him before," Haywood said. "The city had no connection with Stuard until this project."

Carter says, "The city contacted Wescad to come down and finish the job."

Wescad "has been given no legitimate reason why the city won't pay," Carter said, adding that Haywood "is an excellent attorney and we respect him and enjoy working with him, although, nevertheless, we feel confident in our case."

Both sides are sending each other questions in anticipation of depositions. No trial date has been set.

Marshall County Chancellor J.B. Cox presides over the case.