A Santa Maria-based engineering and contracting company is fighting a recent Pismo Beach City Council resolution that brands the company as a "non-responsible bidder" and bars it from working on city projects for the next five years.
V. Lopez Jr. & Sons General Engineering Contractors Inc. filed a petition in San Luis Obispo County Superior Court on Dec. 7 requesting that the court overturn the Pismo Beach resolution. The city claims the resolution is necessary after a project V. Lopez handled took up extra time and money. In its petition, V. Lopez argues that Pismo Beach acted outside of its authority in passing such a resolution, which the company claims was approved without any supporting evidence, legal basis, or due process.
- Screenshot From Pismo Beach Staff Report
- DELAYED According to Pismo Beach city staff, contractor V. Lopez Jr. & Sons started work on a project at Spyglass Park without the proper materials, preventing use of portions of the park for about 14 weeks.
"The technical effect of the resolution was to bar petitioner from bidding on city projects for five years," V. Lopez's petition reads. "However, the resolution contained a number of allegedly 'factual' recitations, leading to the conclusory branding of [V. Lopez] as a 'non-responsible bidder.' Among these recitations was the statement the city had been damaged by [V. Lopez] in an 'approximate' amount of $322,500, and another that questioned petitioner's 'public works competence.' Such statements are completely false and are defamatory."
Scott Baker, attorney for V. Lopez Jr. & Sons, said the petition is an attempt to repair the damage done to the company's reputation through Pismo's public and allegedly inadequate debarment process, which he said unfairly put much of the blame on V. Lopez for issues it didn't cause.
The issue is not about not about working in Pismo Beach again or money, Baker said, but about setting the record straight.
"Honestly V. Lopez has no desire to participate in their projects," Baker told New Times.
At a meeting on Nov. 17, the Pismo Beach City Council unanimously approved a resolution declaring V. Lopez Jr. & Sons a non-responsible bidder. According to city staff, V. Lopez was tasked with replacing the Five Cities Lift Station, a project that started in 2018 and included performing maintenance on six lift stations and repairing a wastewater collections system. But according to the city staff report, various glaring mistakes and a lack of preparation on the part of V. Lopez led to a 69-day delay in the completion of the project and nearly $323,000 in losses to the city.
In its staff report, the city claims that throughout the construction process, V. Lopez consistently initiated work without the necessary materials and equipment and demonstrated a lack of understanding of public works processes and requirements, which often led to the use of city staff and materials to help complete projects.
Although city staff wouldn't comment further on the situation, citing pending litigation, City Manager Jim Lewis said at the Nov. 17 meeting that the decision to ban V. Lopez from future city work was a rare but necessary step.
"This is actually a very rare thing for a city council to do and a very rare item," Lewis said. "And it was certainly with a heavy heart and a heavy frame of mind that I added this to your agenda. But it really has to do with public safety and the integrity of our projects."
But V. Lopez claims that it was the city's inadequate design plan and inaccurate specs that led to delays in the project. Although in the petition V. Lopez outlines its attempts to mediate the issue with the city of Pismo Beach through less adversarial methods, V. Lopez claims that the city repeatedly refused to reconsider holding its hearing regarding the ban on the contractor.
In copies of emails provided as supplements at the Nov. 17 city hearing, City Manager Lewis writes that he wouldn't consider pulling the agenda item unless V. Lopez agrees to pay more than $150,000 to the city to offset the costs Lewis alleges were caused by the contractor.
In a previous interview with New Times, V. Lopez President Vince Lopez III said he wasn't willing to give in to that kind of a transaction.
"Those types of business tactics aren't normal," he said. Δ