Mortenson sues city for records wanted for convention center scandal defense

A rendering showing the expanded Colorado Convention Center. (Colorado Convention Center Master Plan)

Mortenson has sued the city of Denver for access to various documents as the construction company looks to defend itself against alleged wrongdoing related to bidding for the expansion of the Colorado Convention Center.

The Minneapolis-based company filed a lawsuit against the city’s Department of Public Works in Denver District Court last Wednesday, asking a judge to force the city to produce records the company requested in late December.

The company said it has received 1,279 documents in response to its request, but believes it should have received more, given that the expansion budget exceeds $200 million.

“Simply put, it defies credulity that a project of this magnitude would generate less than 1,300 documents responsive to the CORA request, but the City has repeatedly refused to offer a plausible explanation for its sparse production,” the lawsuit reads.

Asked for comment Friday morning, a spokeswoman for the Public Works department said it had not yet been served with the lawsuit.

The city announced on Dec. 11 that it had halted the bidding process for the expansion of the downtown convention center, and terminated its project with Trammell Crow, which was overseeing the project. The city also said that day that it was requesting a review of Mortenson’s prequalification status for bidding on future projects.

The city said it was taking the actions because a review had discovered “improper release of city documents to a contractor bidding on the project, improper discussions about the bidding process and altering of approved project plans.”

According to the lawsuit, the city subsequently suspended Mortenson’s prequalification status indefinitely on Dec. 22, then told the company on March 22 that the status was being revoked for three years.

The Denver Post has reported that the review began when a city employee discovered unauthorized changes to the expansion plans, including the addition of an executive boardroom.

A day after the city’s Dec. 11 announcement, Trammell Crow said it had fired an unnamed employee. In records obtained by The Denver Post in January, Mortenson said any blame should lie with Trammell Crow and the city — the latter for lack of oversight.

Trammell Crow “was in a position of authority over Mortenson and it established what information would be shared and when,” the company said in one letter.

The lawsuit filed last week shines a light on what Mortenson has been doing in the past few months as it seeks to clear its name.

The company said it filed a Colorado Open Records Act request for documents on Dec. 28, in an effort to support its appeal of the prequalification suspension.

At first, Mortenson claims, the city provided only 27 documents, claiming the rest were exempt from disclosure because they were “evidence subject to the Colorado Criminal Justice Records Act,” an objection Mortenson said was meritless because Denver’s Department of Public Works isn’t a criminal justice agency.

Mortenson and the company have been sparring over the records since, according to the lawsuit. Mortenson said it received more records in March, but the release “did not contain internal Trammell Crow documents or communications between Trammell Crow and other companies participating in the design-build proposal process.”

Mortenson said that, in late April, it told the city of specific Trammell Crow documents it knew the city possessed, and the city subsequently provided many of them. But Mortenson said it believes there are other records the city should have provided.

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