LPCiminelli has sued Erie County for what it says was bid-rigging in awarding the construction contract on Erie Community College's new STEM building. The dispute prompted county legislators to send the contract back to committee for review.
Niagara Falls-based Scrufari Construction submitted the low bid for the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math building ECC wants to open on its Williamsville campus next year. However, lawmakers said they are concerned minority and women-owned businesses where precluded from the process, in violation of the county's bidding guidelines.
During Thursday's meeting of the Erie County Legislature, Minority Leader Joseph Lorigo (C-West Seneca) said he supports Ciminelli's position.
"The bid-rigging is so egregious - not just something that was there was some minor issue that the Administration attempted to portray to us this morning - the winning bidder, Scrufari Construction, has been accused and proven to have subverted the minority and women-owned business portion of the bidding and they were still awarded the contract."
Lorigo said approving a more than $7.6 million bid that does not comply with guidelines sets a "terrible precedent" that the county does not care about following the law. He complained that the County Attorney has known about the lawsuit "for over a week" and kept it "under the radar" from legislators in order to push through the contract.
Legislator Betty Jean Grant (D-Buffalo) likened the contract issue to the investigation of the Buffalo Billion.
"I support the STEM program, but I do not support how this was awarded to that contractor and I am glad Majority Leader Lorigo is on top of this," she said. "This has been a concern that has caused us to question the SolarCity and City of Buffalo projects and Erie County projects as well. I would be remiss in my duty as a legislator to approve this when I know that there are serious allegations and violations, as far as we can see."
Legislator Edward Rath (R-Amherst) said he also supports ECC's STEM program. He said it is a much-needed and necessary investment in our North Campus" that is "long overdue." However, the bidding process has been tainted and the integrity of the bidding process "called into question."
"This has to go back to committee. We have to get these questions answered and we need to review this," Rath said. "Because if we don't, we're not doing our job as legislators.
Grant motioned to send the contract back to committee. It was seconded by Lorigo. Legislators voted 11-0 to send it back to committee.
Legislator Barbara Miller-Williams (D-Buffalo) said the committee's re-review would delay the project only a couple of weeks. ECC wants to open its new STEM building in 2017.