Articles Posted in Government Contracts

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The city of Anaheim, as successor to the former Anaheim Redevelopment Agency, sought approval from the California Department of Finance to obtain money from the Redevelopment Property Tax Trust Fund (the fund) for two reasons: (1) to pay the city back for payments it made to a construction company to complete certain property improvements that the former Anaheim Redevelopment Agency was obligated to provide on a particular redevelopment project (the packing district project); and (2) fund to make payments to the Anaheim Housing Authority (the authority) under a cooperation agreement between the agency and the authority, the purpose of which was to provide funding for the Avon/Dakota revitalization project, which was being carried out by a private developer -- The Related Companies of California, LLC (Related) -- pursuant to a contract with the authority. The department ultimately denied the claim for money from the fund for the property improvements because the city did not disburse the loan proceeds to the city as successor, but instead paid the construction company directly, and because the city as successor did not obtain prior approval for the “loan” agreement with the city from the oversight board. The department denied the second claim because the 2011 law that dissolved the former redevelopment agencies rendered agreements between a former redevelopment agency and the city that created that agency unenforceable. The city, the city as successor, and the authority sought mandamus, declaratory, and injunctive relief on both issues in the superior court, but the trial court denied the writ petition and dismissed the complaint for declaratory and injunctive relief. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded the trial court erred. With respect to the packing district project, the fact that the city contracted directly with the construction company to construct the improvements the agency was legally obligated to provide at that project, and the fact that the city paid the company directly for its work, did not mean the agreement between the city and the city as successor with respect to the transaction was not a loan, as the department and the trial court concluded. As for the money from the fund claimed for the Avon/Dakota revitalization project, the Court concluded that enforcing the provision of the dissolution law that renders unenforceable an agreement between a former redevelopment agency and the city that created it (or an affiliated entity like the authority) would, in this case, unconstitutionally impair Related’s contractual rights under its agreement with the authority. Accordingly, that provision cannot be enforced here to deny the city as successor the right to obtain money from the fund to pay the authority that, in turn, the authority is obligated to pay Related to carry out the revitalization project. View "City of Anaheim v. Cohen" on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Dennis Ponte demanded defendant County of Calaveras (County) to pay him over $150,000 to reimburse him for work purportedly performed on the County’s behalf pursuant to an oral contract. The contract did not contain any fixed payment, and no bid was submitted nor approved pursuant to relevant county ordinances governing public contracts. Ponte disregarded opportunities to abandon his claims after the County provided him with pertinent legal authority demonstrating that his claims lacked merit. After multiple sustained demurrers, the trial court granted summary judgment to the County on Ponte’s third amended complaint. The court later awarded substantial attorney fees, finding Ponte’s claims, including those based on promissory estoppel, were not brought or maintained in both subjective and objective good faith. Ponte appealed. Finding no reversible error, the Court of Appeal affirmed. View "Ponte v. County of Calaveras" on Justia Law

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In a 2005 Cooperation and Option Agreement to facilitate Russell's construction and operation of the Energy Center, a natural gas-fired, combined cycle electric generating facility in Hayward, the city granted Russell an option to purchase 12.5 acres of city-owned land as the Energy Center's site and promised to help Russell obtain permits, approvals, and water treatment services. Russell conveyed a 3.5-acre parcel to the city. The Agreement's “Payments Clause” prohibited the city from imposing any taxes on the “development, construction, ownership and operation” of the Energy Center except taxes tethered to real estate ownership. In 2009, Hayward voters approved an ordinance that imposes “a tax upon every person using electricity in the City. … at the rate of five and one-half percent (5.5%) of the charges made for such electricity” with a similar provision regarding gas usage. Russell began building the Energy Center in 2010. In 2011, the city informed Russell it must pay the utility tax. The Energy Center is operational.The court of appeal affirmed a holding that the Payments Clause was unenforceable as violating California Constitution article XIII, section 31, which provides “[t]he power to tax may not be surrendered or suspended by grant or contract.” Russell may amend its complaint to allege a quasi-contractual restitution claim. View "Russell City Energy Co. v. City of Hayward" on Justia Law

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In 2004, Hesperia began acquiring vacant property in its downtown for development of a Civic Plaza, with a city hall, public library, other government buildings and “complimentary retail, restaurant, and entertainment establishments.” Cinema West articulated a plan to develop a cinema immediately west of the Civic Plaza Park: the city would convey 54,000 square feet of real property to Cinema for $102,529, the property‘s fair market value; Cinema would construct a 38,000-square foot, 12-screen digital theatre; the city would construct the necessary parking lot, develop a water retention system for the theater and the parking lot, and install off-site improvements including curb, gutter and sidewalks. Cinema would execute a 10-year operating agreement with the city. The city later made a $250,000 forgivable loan to Cinema to aid with a $700,000 anticipated shortfall. As development of the theater and parking lot was nearing completion, the Electrical Workers Union requested a public works coverage determination under California‘s prevailing wage law (Lab. Code, 1720–18611 ) The State Department of Industrial Relations concluded that the project was subject to the prevailing wage requirement. The court of appeal affirmed, noting that Cinema received the benefit of a new, publicly-funded parking lot adjacent to the theater, which, though owned by the city, is Cinema‘s to use for as long as it operates the theater. View "Cinema West v. Baker" on Justia Law

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SJJC Aviation is a fixed base operator (FBO) that operates a full-service facility at the Norman Y. Mineta San Jose International Airport, which is owned by the city. In 2012 the city addressed a plan to add a second FBO on the west side of the airport and issued a request for proposals “for the development and operation of aeronautical services facilities to serve general aviation activities at the [airport].” The city awarded the lease and operating agreement to Signature and its prospective subtenant, BCH, rejecting SJJC's bid as nonresponsive. SJJC filed suit, contending that the “flawed” process of soliciting bids for the lease should be set aside. The court of appeal affirmed dismissal of the suit. SJJC lost its own opportunity to compete for the new airport FBO by submitting a manifestly nonresponsive bid. SJJC is in reality complaining of past acts by the city and is seeking a remedy that will allow it another opportunity to submit a responsive proposal. View "SJJC Aviation Services v. City of San Jose" on Justia Law

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Education Code section 17406 authorizes school districts to use lease-leaseback agreements for construction or improvement of school facilities: the school district leases its own real property to a contractor for a nominal amount, and the contractor agrees to construct or improve school facilities on the property and lease the property and improvements back to the district. At the end of the lease-leaseback agreement, title to the project vests in the school district. California Taxpayers Network brought a reverse validation action (Code Civ. Proc. 863), challenging a lease-leaseback agreement between Mount Diablo School District and Taber Construction, alleging that the Education Code requires “genuine lease-leaseback agreements,” which “provide for financing of the school facility project over time,” but defendants’ lease-leaseback contracts were “sham leases”; that the contracts were illegal because a public bidding process is required for school construction projects; and that Taber provided professional preconstruction services to the District regarding the project before entering the lease-leaseback contracts. The court of appeals affirmed dismissal of claims "that attempt to engraft requirements on the transaction" that are not part of the Education Code. The court reversed in part, holding that the plaintiff did state a conflict of interest claim against Taber sufficient to withstand a demurrer. View "California Taxpayers Action Network v. Taber Construction, Inc." on Justia Law

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Kase was exposed to asbestos insulation used on nuclear submarines during the early 1970s. The trial court rejected claims against a broker that arranged for asbestos-containing insulation to be shipped to the Mare Island Naval Shipyard, where workers packed it around the submarine piping it protected. The court held, on summary judgment, that the Navy‘s procurement of asbestos insulation for its nuclear submarines implicated the government contractor defense set forth in the Supreme Court’s 1988 holding, Boyle v. United Technologies Corp. The broker procured the insulation pursuant to and in compliance with relatively detailed performance and testing specifications, although those specifications did not expressly call out for asbestos in the insulation. According to undisputed evidence, the specifications could only be met by asbestos-containing insulation, and the only product on the Navy‘s approved list of suitable products was the product at issue, Unibestos. The court of appeal affirmed, stating that the defense does not necessarily exclude the procurement of products also sold commercially. The Navy‘s procurement of the asbestos insulation at issue occurred after years of evaluating and weighing the utility of and the health hazards associated with asbestos products and pursuant to specifications that required an asbestos product. View "Kase v. Metalclad Insulation Corp." on Justia Law

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To address Monterey County’s water needs, two public agencies and a water company entered into five interrelated agreements, in 2010-2011, to collaborate on a water desalination project. After it was revealed that a board member of one of the public agencies had a potential conflict of interest, the water company took the position that the agreements were void under Government Code section 1090. That board member was eventually convicted under a statute that prohibits “financially interested in any contract made by them in their official capacity, or by any body or board of which they are members.” In an action for declaratory relief, the trial court agreed that four of the five agreements were void. The court of appeal affirmed, rejecting an argument that the challenges were time barred and that the trial court lacked jurisdiction to consider the parties’ dispute. A public agency is not bound by the 60-day limitation period that governs validation actions when it seeks a judicial determination of the validity of a contract under section 1090. View "Cal.-Am. Water Co. v. Marina Coast Water Dist." on Justia Law

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Plaintiff Sweetwater Union High School District filed this action against defendants Gilbane Building Company, The Seville Group, Inc. (SGI), and Gilbane/SGI, a joint venture (the Joint Venture), seeking to void management contracts with all three entities, and to require that they disgorge all sums that Sweetwater paid them under the contracts. Sweetwater alleges that certain representatives of the defendant entities engaged in a "pay to play" scheme with several Sweetwater officials that involved paying for expensive dinners, tickets to entertainment and sporting events, and travel expenses, and making contributions to political campaigns and charities, in an effort to influence the officials to award defendants certain construction contracts. Gilbane and the Joint Venture brought a special motion to strike (or "anti-SLAPP motion"). The trial court denied the motion on the ground that the conduct underlying the complaint was illegal as a matter of law, and therefore, was not protected by the constitutional guarantees of free speech and petition. Defendants argued on appeal that the trial court erred in denying their anti-SLAPP motion. After review, the Court of Appeal concluded that the trial court did not abuse its discretion in considering the evidence proffered by Sweetwater, including signed plea forms and transcripts from grand jury testimony in criminal cases against many of the individuals involved in the alleged "pay to play" contracting scheme. "Such evidence is, in all material respects, indistinguishable from evidence presented by way of a declaration. Based on the proffered evidence, we conclude that Sweetwater has sufficiently demonstrated a probability of prevailing on the merits. We therefore affirm the trial court's denial of defendants' anti-SLAPP motion." View "Sweetwater Union School Dist. v. Gilbane Building Co." on Justia Law

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A trade association of California unions, contractors’ associations and contractors filed suit. Following discovery and a contested hearing, the court ruled that defendant Ross Valley Sanitary District lacked authority under Public Contract Code 20803 to engage its own workforce to complete a sewer system improvement project costing more than $15,000 without putting the project out for competitive bid and contract. The trial court ordered the District to cease and desist from taking further action with respect to about 139 miles of its small diameter sewer pipe with in-house workers, and to conduct all future replacement of this pipe through competitive bid and contract. The court of appeal reversed. Section 20803 applies when a district contracts with a third party for public work, and not when a district relies on force account (in-house) work. View "Constr. Indus. Force Acct. Council, Inc. v. Ross Valley Sanitation Dist." on Justia Law