Lessons from the Trenches: Correcting a costly procedural error

by F+A Staff

May 14, 2015

MidMountain Construction is a Pacific Northwest construction company with an exemplary record of completing highly technical projects on time and on budget. The company has a great reputation for maintaining ethical practices and providing living-wage jobs to members of our community.

MidMountain Construction submitted a bid to build an important commuter rail project for Sound Transit. The firm was happy to learn that they were the apparent lowest bidder; the second lowest bid was $800,000 higher than MidMountain’s on a total contract value of $40 million.

Shortly after the bid opening, MidMountain received disappointing news. In the rush to submit the bid paperwork, MidMountain erred and failed to file a seemingly innocuous form. When the employee handling the paperwork realized his error, he ran back to deliver the one-page form, just 20 minutes late.

As a result of the error, Sound Transit declared MidMountain’s bid “non-responsive,” disqualifying the company.  The $40 million project was awarded to the second-lowest bidder, costing taxpayers at least $800,000. The winning bidder, obviously enjoying the fruits of the procedural error, began pushing to consummate the agreement as soon as possible.

MidMountain, through their attorneys, asked for our help.

We worked alongside MidMountain’s attorneys and crafted an outreach strategy that complemented their legal approach; while the lawyers fought in court, we took the battle to the elected officials who held oversight of Sound Transit. We presented each Sound Transit board member with a packet of information describing the impact of denying the bid to MidMountain, including what $800,000 could purchase for their tax-paying voters. To put this decision into perspective, the packet described in detail how many new teaching positions the forfeited money would pay for, how many firefighters’ salaries it would support, and other ways the people of Washington were going to be negatively affected by this decision.

In tandem with our written material, we also worked with the construction company principals to make one-on-one calls to some of the same board members so that they could better understand the political fallout of squandering $800,000 of taxpayer money over a minor procedural error.

We were able to engage a majority of the Sound Transit board members, either through our issue packet, or through one-on-one conversations over the course of a few weeks. Through this exchange of information, we were able to convince the Sound Transit board to rule that the tardy form was simply a “minor irregularity.” The decision to disqualify MidMountain was overruled, and MidMountain completed the project months later, on time and on budget.

F+A Staff
About F+A Staff
Back to Articles

Leave a Comment

Lessons from the Trenches: Correcting a costly procedural error