The construction company responsible for the North La Cañada Drive widening project has filed a $4 million defamation lawsuit against a trade organization that represents many specialty construction contractors.
Select Development and Construction filed the suit against the Alliance of Construction Trades (ACT) on July 7 in Pima County Superior Court.
The complaint accuses ACT and its executive director, James Kuelish, of defamation, invasion of privacy, false light and interference with contractual relations for comments Kuelish allegedly made to a gathering of 150 people at an ACT meeting in February.
Kuelish has been outspoken about the $18.7 million La Cañada project, suggesting in a local media report that the county break its contract with Select and sue the company.
Ana Olivares, deputy Pima County transportation director, confirmed the county has received complaints from several of Select’s subcontractors who said they had not been paid for work done on the La Cañada widening.
She said the department has been in contact with Select regarding payment of subcontractors.
Two companies have filed lawsuits in Pima County Superior Court against Select alleging nonpayment for work and supplies. Those cases are pending.
Brian Neal, president of Select Development and Construction, said the company did not want to comment on a matter pending in court.
The Select lawsuit says Kuelish encouraged “the general contractors, subcontractors and material suppliers in attendance to not do business with (Select).”
It also says Kuelish encouraged the people in attendance to hamper Select’s chances of winning future government bids by inflating their subcontracting proposals to Select.
Select also accuses Kuelish of telling people the bond Select put up as insurance for the project contained false information.
Kuelish’s stated purpose in “publishing the false/defamatory information regarding Select is to run Plaintiff out of town,” the complaint reads.
Attorney Neal Eckel, who represents Kuelish and ACT, would not comment on the specific allegations other than to say an answer to the complaint would be filed with the court soon.
The dispute stems in part from the contentious and delayed La Cañada Drive widening between West Ina and River roads. Select is the prime contractor on the $18.7 million project, which was originally scheduled for completion in April.
There were some delays as a result of construction crews uncovering previously unknown utility infrastructure, which prompted the county to give the company some time extensions in order to deal with the unforeseen issues.
But in June, Transportation Department officials informed Select that if the road was not complete by July 2, the company would be assessed $2,500 per day until the project is complete.
Select has filed its own $3.2 million claim against the county, contending its work was hindered because the engineering company hired by the county to oversee the work did not respond promptly to problems.
Olivares said the county has held firm on the threat and began charging the company for the delays.
Select also has the county contract for the $9.9 million West Magee Road improvement project.