Firm to appeal contract decision

Proposed airport renovation/expansion project.

The runner-up bidder for the $150 million Charleston International Airport terminal redevelopment contract said it will appeal to circuit court Friday’s ruling that denied its protest to the Charleston County Aviation Authority.

“They want an independent body to look at the protest,” said attorney Nick Nicholson, who represents Holder Construction Co. of Atlanta and its local partners. “The only people who have looked at it or ruled on it were an employee of the Aviation Authority or members of the authority.”

The group of companies led by Holder filed a protest in the spring after the contract was awarded to Austin Commercial LP of Dallas and local firm Hitt Contracting Inc.

The Holder team said a former airport board member’s ties to the Austin-Hitt team tainted the contract award process, the Aviation Authority did not follow proper procedures and a score sheet gave the Holder group a higher ranking than the contract winner.

A three-member panel of airport board members led by attorney and former judge Larry Richter ruled Friday that the protest filed by the Holder team was “unsupported by facts or law.”

Aviation Authority attorney Arnold Goldstein said Monday he is “amazed” that the Holder group intends to appeal the decision.

“There is nothing there,” he said. “I can’t imagine why they think there is.”

The airport panel found nothing to support the Holder team’s allegation that former board member Joey Jefferson’s presence on the board before he resigned in April affected the selection of the Austin-Hitt team.

The Holder team maintained Jefferson’s firm, Palmetto Civil Group, was part of the team that made up the winning bid.

The panel also found that the airport board followed procurement procedures it set for itself because it is a special purpose district that does not have to follow the state procurement code. It also ruled that Holder was not the highest-ranked bidder, as it maintained in its protest.

The panel also mentioned in its six-page ruling that one of the Holder team’s partners, Cumming Corp., wrote Aviation Authority Chairman Chip Limehouse on June 25 that Cumming informed an official from Holder before the original protest was filed that it wanted no part in the protest.

The panel said the Cumming letter had no bearing on its decision, but it noted Cumming’s withdrawal from the holder team could disqualify Holder from its ability to appeal because it was no longer the same team that submitted its bid proposal.

Goodstein also noted that the airport will continue to work with the Austin-Hitt group to continue redeveloping the 27-year-old terminal unless a judge signs an injunction to stop the work.

Nicholson said his clients just want an impartial hearing before an independent panel.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.