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Orlando News Center
January 11, 2011

Cape Coral sues utilities contractor

1:55 P.M. MWH has released the following state ment regarding the city of Cape Coral's lawsuit to obtain records of utility projects the company managed for the city.

The statement was released by MWH spokeswoman Meg Vanderlaan.

"MWH regrets that the City of Cape Coral Florida has decided to file a lawsuit in Florida state court to obtain MWH records that the City believes have been wrongfully withheld. to the contrary, MWH has cooperated fully with the City and provided thousands of records. However, MWH has declined to show the City's auditor the specific names of MWH current and former employees, their social security numbers, addresses, and other personal information. with increasing concerns of identity theft, MWH simply cannot ignore the risk to its employees in allowing the release of such information. MWH is hopeful for a quick resolution of this matter by the court."

From this morning on news-press.com

Cape Coral is suing its utilities expansion contractor for access to records it wants in order to complete an audit started in 2006.

The lawsuit, filed Monday against MWH Constructors inc., asks the circuit court to declare the information public under the state's Sunshine Law and to compel MWH to give the records to the city.

The city wants the records to satisfy questions of whether MWH overcharged the city for its work under a 1999 contract.

Before it was stopped two years ago, the $1 billion water and sewer project was packed with controversy as residents complained about assessment costs rising to $23,000 per property at one point. the assessment for a two-lot site in 1999 was $12,000.

Cape Coral also asks in the lawsuit for an accelerated hearing under the Sunshine Law. That would make the case a priority over other cases and give MWH 48 hours to produce the records if the city wins its case. no hearing date has been set.

"It's going tell us whether we did or did not get ripped. the people have a right to know what really happened here," Mayor John Sullivan said.

Even if the audit verifies the charges were correct, residents will know the City Council did the right thing to find out, Sullivan said.

For the 2006 report, auditor Michael Kessler of Kessler International asked for records such as change order logs, invoices and time sheet and payroll information for MWH employees.

But according to suit, he didn't get everything he wanted and what he received was heavily redacted.

MWH spokeswoman Meg Vanderlaan could not be reached for comment.

In a previous statement, MWH said it supplied the records and an audit it funded showed the company complied with its contract. MWH also has said the information being sought was not required for Kessler's audit and releasing it could publicly expose employees' private information such as their Social Security information.

MWH also said it no longer has an obligation to participate in a reaudit of the contract because the project was stopped in 2008.

"I don't know if we'll gain anything at all," said Councilman Marty McClain. "It's an act of futility. Several people ran for office and said this was going to be their mission."

Completing the audit was part of the Contract with Cape Coral signed by Sullivan and Councilman Chris Chulakes-Leetz when they ran for office and by Pete Brandt and Bill Deile, who were on the council.

Sullivan and Deile also sued the city over the assessment methodology before they became members of the council. Other members voted last week not to accept a settlement to end that case.

MWH probably had fewer complaints than any other utilities contractor the city has used, McClain said.

"We're penalizing them for their efficiency," McClain said.

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