School District sues building contractor to get records of middle school's construction

skinney@keynoter.comJanuary 18, 2014 

The Monroe County School Board on Tuesday directed its attorneys to sue Coastal Construction in an attempt to audit the builder's records from its $38 million reconstruction of Horace O'Bryant Middle School in Key West.

Attorney Dirk Smits immediately complied, suing Wednesday, although a court date hadn't been set by Friday, according to Monroe County Clerk of Court's Office records.

School Board member Ed Davidson, who has led the charge on the post-construction audit, said the lawsuit is "access to public records."

The board agreed in October to hire Chicago-based McGladrey LLP to conduct a post-construction audit for $45,000, with an eye on recouping any costs associated with contractor error.

Before opting for a full-blown audit, the board hired Marathon-based accountant Steve Pribramsky, a former District 1 board member, to conduct a so-called attestation that found numerous problems with project accounting on the district's, not Coastal's, side.

Coastal feels that's enough.

"Based upon the fact that this exact review of Coastal's records has been made and fully cooperated with by Coastal and given further that the McGladrey request is identical to that of Pribramsky, Coastal must respectfully decline to provide multiple reviews of our project records by multiple consultants to the School Board," Coastal attorney Michael Utley wrote to Smits on Dec. 18.

During the Tuesday meeting at Marathon High School, Smits said Coastal initially offered access to the records but "changed their mind. It's a brick wall now."

Halfway through construction, part of the school complex had to be redesigned to conform with Key West's building height regulations. And a foundation survey overlooked unsuitable soil that had to be trucked out and replaced with new fill, costing some $300,000.

McGladrey is tasked with analyzing billing compared to costs, change orders, quality control and a contractual savings split between the district and Coastal.

Then-Superintendent Joe Burke launched the construction in 2009 with a low-interest federal stimulus loan.

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