Business

Port wins bid dispute; Cotton Fore blames ‘good ol’ boy system’

W.C. “Cotton” Fore, who has worked on port projects for 44 years, lost his court appeal of the port's decision to award a major construction project to the second-lowest bidder rather than W.C. Fore Trucking Co. Fore is seen here in 2009 during his company's work to expand and elevate the West Pier.
W.C. “Cotton” Fore, who has worked on port projects for 44 years, lost his court appeal of the port's decision to award a major construction project to the second-lowest bidder rather than W.C. Fore Trucking Co. Fore is seen here in 2009 during his company's work to expand and elevate the West Pier. Sun Herald File

W.C. Fore failed to prove the state port acted “arbitrarily and capriciously” in awarding a construction contract to a company with a bid $126,766 higher than the one W.C. Fore Trucking Co. submitted, a circuit judge has decided.

Judge Roger Clark agreed the port was within its rights to reject Fore’s bid because he did not submit certificates of responsibility for his two subcontractors on the $44 million job. Bid instructions the port issued for contractors clearly stated the requirement, Clark noted.

Fore had appealed to Circuit Court a decision by the port’s Board of Commissioners to award the West Pier contract to Necaise Bros. Construction Co., which submitted the second-lowest bid. In the lawsuit, Fore sought $8.9 million in damages from the port.

“The Port Authority considered all of the evidence, and capabilities of Fore and Necaise, and this court defers to its expertise in the bid process, knowledge of the program, and careful consideration of all the pertinent factors in coming to its well reasoned decision ... ” Clark’s opinion says.

Fore told the Sun Herald he does not plan to appeal the decision. He believes the judge decided to go along with an executive branch of government, regardless of whether the decision was correct.

“I personally believe the judge did not look at the facts,” he said. “He just believes in the good ol’ boy system .... They didn’t want me to have the job. They figured out how to keep me from having it.”

Fore had argued in the appeal that the port’s contract administrator said Fore could submit the certificate later, along with the names of two subcontractors who were each going to perform less than 10 percent of the work. The judge found an employee’s statements were “not persuasive,” given the port’s written and pre-bid conference instructions requiring the certificates.

Fore has worked on port projects for 44 years or more, completing at least 35, including the West Pier’s post-Hurricane Katrina expansion and elevation.

After expansion was completed, the port awarded Necaise the largest contract of $63.3 million for construction on the West Pier, part of a job-creation project the federal government agreed to fund with $570 million after Katrina. The disputed contract represents the second phase of construction work.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

  Comments