ALBUQUERQUE (KRQE) - A lawsuit unsealed this week claims University of New Mexico administrators steered the contract for a $60 million renovation project at The Pit to a company that had close ties with university president David Schmidly.
The two-year project to upgrade New Mexico's 44-year-old college basketball arena went to Tulsa, Okla.-based Flintco, despite Jaynes Corp. of Albuquerque submitting a lower initial bid.
The lawsuit was filed under seal in October on behalf of several trade union groups under the New Mexico Fraud Against Taxpayers Act.
"Jaynes Corp. won The Pit reconstruction bid against two competitors by more than 20 points," said attorney John Wertheim.
But Wertheim said after interviews, four of five scoring sheets were changed in Flintco's favor. He said the company has an announced corporate policy of using personal contacts to win public contracts.
In this case, Wertheim said Flintco's personal contact was Schmidly. The lawsuit alleges Schmidly, during his tenure at Oklahoma State University, developed a friendship with Flintco's CEO.
"What this is all about is bringing integrity to public contracts," said Wertheim. "That's what this lawsuit is all about."
"Because of the corrupted bidding process, New Mexico taxpayers and UNM paid $2.26 million more than it should have if the lower bidder had won the contract," said Executive Director Ray Baca of the New Mexico Construction Trade Council, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
It is unclear who manipulated the scores, but Wertheim said Schmidly's administration tallied the scoring cards internally. He also said the four rating sheets that were changed were initially filled out by members of Schmidly's administration including Athletic Director Paul Krebs.
On Thursday, Schmidly said he is "disappointed in the personal nature of the attacks to myself, my family and my friends. However, my first obligation is to the University of New Mexico."
Flintco Vice President and Albuquerque-area Manager Ken Easley also denied the allegations and said the company got the contract because it was the best-qualified.
"Flintco is a company that has a long-term established commitment to this region, to this community," Easley said. "And our more than century in business has been founded on our performance of excellence and integrity."
A spokesman for Jaynes Corp. said the company is not involved in the lawsuit, but he admitted he found out about the changed scores six months ago, after construction was well underway. When the company approached the university about the rating sheets, officials said committee members had the authority to change scores.
The university said it is not being sued, but it is continuing to review the legal documents.
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