Mower's standoff on contract

Friday, October 2, 2009

There's been sort of a standoff between Marshall County commissioners and a member of the local school board over their agreement to have him mow grass for the county.

The county says Denton Lawn Service of Spring Place Road needs workers compensation insurance. Curt Denton says the mowing contract hasn't been approved and he's not been paid for the mowing he's already done.

Commissioners were to vote on it Monday when Curt Denton's three-year deal was valued at $22,800, payable in 36 monthly installments, according to a contract that was withdrawn from consideration at the monthly commission meeting.

Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the Buildings Committee, explained delay would give County Attorney Ginger Bobo Shofner time to review the contract.

When bids were called for the mowing contract, a pre-bid conference announcement said there would be "no exceptions" to requirements, including vendors having workers compensation insurance.

However, in a letter sent Monday by King to Denton, the committee chairman says the county let Denton bid, even though he didn't have the insurance.

At the pre-bid meeting, King "agreed with your (Denton's) request that you be allowed to bid and in the event you were the winning bidder, you would provide proof of the workers compensation insurance," according to the letter to Denton.

"You openly stated in the mandatory pre-bid conference that you were not going to purchase the insurance unless you got the bid," King wrote. "On July 27... you were officially awarded the mowing contract for a three-year period to begin on Aug. 1.

"To this date, you still have not provided proof of your workers compensation insurance," King said.

After Monday's commission meeting the Building Committee voted to set an Oct. 15 deadline for proof of insurance by Denton.

"If you do not meet the deadline, your contract will be deemed null and void and the mowing contract will be awarded to the second lowest bidder," King wrote to Denton who received the letter n Wednesday.

That day, Denton told the Tribune, "I don't know what the big deal is. I've never said I wasn't going to get it," meaning workers compensation insurance to protect his employees if they're injured on he job.

It's needed to protect the county, officials have said.

"They haven't approved the contract," Denton continued. "I haven't been paid yet," for two months of mowing.

"They're the only company I have to have workers comp insurance for," Denton said. "Why get it before everything is approved and OK?

"So far, nobody's told me everything is OK," he said.

The in apparent reaction to the requirement, the award and the delayed vote of final approval -- so an attorney can review the contract, Denton reacted by saying, "Drop me,(but) they've never picked me up."

Then, while pointing out that twist in the situation he made a reference to the Joseph Hellar book on odd situations.

"It's really Catch-22 here I guess," Denton said.

Still, without indicating that he has the insurance, Denton concluded, "There's not one problem about getting (workers compensation insurance) as long as I know everything is OK."

What's OK and what's legally binding raised confounding questions at the county's Ofice of Accounts and Budgets which has apparently received four different versions of a contract from Denton's attorney.

About two months ago, after the Buildings Committee advised Denton that his bid offered the apparent best price, the school board member reported to county officials that "his attorney is working on a contract," according to Freda Terry, director of accounts and budgets.

"We didn't require a contract," Terry said, an observation that's consistent with other remarks from at least one county commissioner.

Commissioner Don Ledford, chairman of the Solid Waste Committee ha said that a resolution by the county stands as a contract. In his example, the resolution was a contract for an audit of Waste Management operations.

"The county attorney asked if they could postpone it (Denton;s contract award on Monday night) to have more time to look at it," Terry said.

King has acknowledged that vendors such as Denton Lawn Care don't want to buy insurance before it's needed, but he and all the members of the Building Committee who met immediately after Monday night's commission meeting agreed that the letter sent by King to Denton was appropriate.

The standoff appeared unresolved at mid-day Thursday.