Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Suit Filed Over UWM Building Contract

In a civil case filed against the Department of Administration, a partnership formed to bid on UW-Milwaukee's Kenilworth Building project is seeking close to $5 million in damages, according to one of the principals in the case.

Prism claims it was the rightful winners of the bid process for the project, but its winning bid was tossed aside and the project re-bid because Prism "was not politically popular with the person who made the key decision."

Weas Development was ultimately selected for the project. Ken Nelson, a member of the Prism consortium, said it is seeking "in the ballpark of $5 million" from the suit, which was filed last July.

Originally, Prism was put together in 2002 by Curt Gielow, who left the group when he was elected to the state Assembly. Reached by phone today, Gielow said Prism was "gypped" out of the contract. "They stole it from us," he said."We were rightfully selected, and somebody for some reason took it away from us," Gielow said.

At the center of the controversy is former DOA Secretary Marc Marotta, who now serves as Doyle's re-election campaign chairman.

The suit alleges Marotta made the decision to re-bid the project.According to the court filing: "Prism's demise was the result of actions taken at a behind-the-scenes meeting eight days prior to the Building Commission's February 18, 2004, public hearing. In the wake of those actions, former-Secretary Marotta also apparently directed that a second ad hoc RFP process be established for Kenilworth with a new evaluation committee. Four political appointees, two of whom did not even work for the State, were placed on the evaluation committee which eventually selected Weas Development as the winning developer over runner-up Prism. As the record shows, it was former-Secretary Marotta who then considered Prism's appeal of both its abandonment and the subsequent selection of Weas."

Nelson also offers this email between a UW official and DOA official Rob Cramer to show Marotta's role in the process. The email says that the re-bid was being done per Marotta's recommendation.

Marotta was out of the office Monday and could not be reached via cell phone. Doyle's campaign said there are no plans to let go Marotta from his campaign chair position.

The state DOJ has filed motions to dismiss the suit as well as one to strike from Prism's response all evidence regarding the conduct of the RFP process, according to Nelson. A hearing is set for Aug. 4 on the motion to strike. If it is denied, then the state's motion to dismiss will be heard at a later date.The state is being represented by DOJ attorney Dick Braun.

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