The governor and legislative leaders approved a $366,282 settlement Tuesday that ends a lawsuit alleging the Tar Creek relocation trust failed to honor its contracts with two companies that performed demolition and cleanup work at the EPA Superfund site. Vision Construction and Project Management Inc. and CWF Enterprises Inc. filed the lawsuit last month in Ottawa County District Court against the Lead-Impacted Communities Relocation Assistance Trust. The companies sought a judgment of $366,282; they said they were not paid for work they performed on 37 properties. The lawsuit claims Lloyd Stone received a contract in February to clean up or demolish 156 houses in the Tar Creek area. Stone's Backhoe, Dozer and Trucking Co. of Miami, OK, hired Vision Construction and CWF Enterprises to provide "various demolition and cleanup work for the trust,” according to the lawsuit. Work was suspended in April when it was determined the trust violated the state Open Meeting Act by failing to vote during an open meeting to award the contract, said Assistant Attorney General Scott Boughton, who serves as legal adviser for the trust.
Work was haltedThe trust told the companies last month that no more work could be done because the contract had been contested; the companies then filed a lawsuit to get paid for the work they had done. The trust can approve payments up to $250,000, Boughton said. Anything over that amount has to be sent to the Contingency Review Board, which is made up of Gov. Brad Henry, House Speaker Chris Benge, R-Tulsa, and Senate President Pro Tempore, Glenn Coffee, R-Oklahoma City. The three approved the claim in a meeting that lasted less than 10 minutes. The state is using federal stimulus money to pay for the work, Boughton said. Settling the case was in the state's best interest because attorney's fees "could have gotten out of hand,” he said. "We would have lost,” Boughton said. "They did the work.” The Central Services Department is taking bids on the contract to complete the work "so there can't be any problems with favoritism or anything like that,” Boughton said. "It's going to take probably at least another $1 million or maybe even more than that to finish up,” he said. "I don't even think they're halfway done with that part of it.” The trust was formed after a 2006 Army Corps of Engineers study showed that the ground above abandoned lead and zinc mines under Picher and the nearby communities of Cardin and Hockerville had a high risk of caving in, prompting a $60 million federally funded buyout. The area, called Tar Creek, is contaminated by mining waste and is an Environmental Protection Agency Superfund site.