Jail contractor slaps city with multi-million dollar lawsuit

Posted at 8:13 PM, Dec 12, 2012
and last updated 2012-12-13 11:20:47-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -- As the city's new justice center transforms into a state-of-the-art facility, questions are being raised over the way city leaders handled the process to build the jail.

That's according to one local contractor who is accusing the city of tampering with the bidding process of granting contracts.

"I believe that the city deviated under a cloud of impropriety, very questionable manipulation of the procurement process,” said Barry Cromuel, President of PEAC consulting, LLC.

Additionally, Cromuel said that he "had worked hard to work as a cooperative team member to develop that proposal." He also said he had to lay off eight employees since they were slated to work on the project.

As a result, Cromuel filed a 12-page lawsuit seeking up to $3 million against the City of Richmond and another contractor.

The suit alleges that after his team was awarded the $1.2 million contract to manage the design and construction of the jail, the city removed Cromuel’s team from the project.

Cromuel said officials gave it to Bowers Family Enterprises. And according to Cromuel, the city offered him other jail work to keep him quiet.

Cromuel claims BFE Strategies, who got the job, was "grossly unqualified" and that the city tried to “strong arm” him.

"It's a terrible testimony of the city and the Procurement process and it's suppose to be of good faith and there are a lot of small businesses who work hard to earn a right to compete and are discouraged,” said Cromuel.

Cromuel told CBS 6 News that he is eager to have his day in court.

“We had played by the rules and believed in the system. And yet the system was allowed to mistreat us this way,” said Cromuel.

Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones and city administrators took reporters on a tour Wednesday of the new jail scheduled to open in 2014.

CBS 6 News' Sandra Jones questioned the mayor about the pending lawsuit and if the procurement process was flawed.

"We're not going to comment on anything that's in litigation. And I think that this was a complicated process. But at the end of the day look where we are. That's what it takes to get the job done,” Jones said.

And what about making the process better?

“We’re always looking to make things better,” the mayor said. “By learning from our successes and failures.”