Citing what he referred to in a news release as a “significant breach of public trust,” Denver Mayor Michael Hancock announced Tuesday that he has asked the district attorney to investigate allegations of misconduct that he said tainted the selection of a contractor during the bidding process for the Colorado Convention Center expansion.
The allegations have prompted the city to terminate its contract with Trammell Crow, the company that was providing program management services for the expansion project, according to a news release. The executive director of Denver Public Works has also asked for a review of Mortenson Construction’s pre-qualification status for bidding on future projects.
Here is the public statement from the Trammell Crow Company about the allegations:
The alleged actions in connection with the Colorado Convention Center project have in no way been authorized by Trammell Crow Company and are contrary to the firm’s values and longstanding business practices. We are cooperating fully with the City and are conducting our own internal investigation. We will take internal actions as the results of our investigation dictate, including appropriate disciplinary measures.
Maja Rosenquist, the senior vice president at Mortenson, also released a statement:
“We’ve received a letter from the City and County of Denver concerning termination of the RFP for the Colorado Convention Center Expansion project. We take the issues raised by the City very seriously and are committed to addressing this matter thoroughly and appropriately. We are conducting our own review of our participation in the RFP process and will cooperate with any further inquiries by the City or the District Attorney’s Office.”
According to the release, the Denver City Attorney’s Office found that over the course of bidding on the project, there was an improper release of city documents, improper discussions of the project and the altering of approved project plans.
No additional details about the exact nature of the allegations were immediately available, but the news release did say the city is working on legislation to prevent similar problems in the future.
In a letter to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann, Hancock wrote in part, "the city has discovered potentially improper collusion between the city's project management consultant and one of the proposers related to the procurement of a design build contractor for the project. I request that your office determine whether any of this conduct rose to the level of criminal activity."
Denver District Attorney spokesperson Carolyn Tyler confirmed that the DA has received documents from the city attorney, but has not made a decision about whether or not to launch an investigation.
The Denver City Council first approved more than $21 million in contracts for the Colorado Convention Center expansion earlier this year, according to the Denver Business Journal. This comes after Denver hotel owners agreed to a 1 percent increase in lodging taxes, as well as a bond sale aimed at funding what was expected to be a $233 million revamp of the facility.
The expansion includes the addition of an 80,000-square-foot meeting and ballroom space, as well as a 50,000-square-foot outdoor terrace on top of the existing building.
Trammell Crow, the contractor that has been ousted from the project, notably worked on projects like the construction of the Webb Building and Union Station renovation, the Denver Business Journal reports. It had been tasked with day-to-day work on the Colorado Convention Center project.
Nancy Kuhn, the director of the public information office for Denver Public Works, said Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and PCL Construction Services were the other two companies shortlisted in the bidding process.
The city will now start the process to find another contractor with a new selection panel, the news release said.
While this happens, the city also said in the news release it will “work to minimize any delays and pursue all legal remedies to recover damages.”
Ed Sealover has covered the expansion project for the Denver Business Journal. He said there are still many unanswered questions about the alleged misconduct.
“How did the city find out about this? How serious is this? How much does it really set back the process, and frankly what’s it going to do to the timeline?” he listed as examples.
“This is not a rush project that needs to be done, but this is a project that -- every year other cities are investing tens of millions of dollars into their convention centers. In fact, on Dec. 18 one of the city’s main competitors is opening up in Aurora [Gaylord Rockies]… Every day they’re not expanding, they’re falling behind on the competition.”
Sealover said both companies named in the city’s press release have been involved in other Denver projects. He said Trammell Crow worked with the city on the Webb Building and Union Station, while Mortenson was involved with Gaylord Rockies and the DIA Hotel and Transit Center.
“These are not fly by night companies. So it’s very surprising to see such a strong stance taken by Hancock here to stop this and accuse two of the city’s leading companies in construction projects of something that might be criminal” Sealover said.