Court Orders Army to Reinstate Turner Contract
Turner Construction Co., New York City, is looking to put $333 million back on its books after it won a bid protest over a new 745,000-sq-ft hospital planned for Fort Benning, Ga.
On Aug. 5, the Savannah District of the Army Corps of Engineers reinstated the design-build contract, which had been terminated in March over charges of organizational conflicts of interest. The job re-award follows a July claims court ruling that agreed with Turner’s appeal of a decision by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) against the contractor.
“We are pleased that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has reinstated Turner’s contract to design and construct the Ft. Benning Martin Army Community Hospital to serve military personnel and their families,” said Shannon Hines, Turner vice president and general manager in a written statement. “Turner’s mission is and has always been to build a world-class healthcare facility to benefit the soldiers who have provided service to our nation and we are honored to have the opportunity to manage the construction of this hospital.”
The concerns regarding possible conflicts of interests centered on Turner’s design partner, Minneapolis-based Ellerbe Becket. The two firms began pursuing the Martin Army Community Hospital project after requests for proposals were released in June 2008. In December of that year, New York-based Turner was shortlisted for the final phase of bidding along with two other teams, a McCarthy/Hunt joint venture and a team of Harbert Construction and Brasfield & Gorrie. Turner was awarded the contract on Sept. 28, 2009.
Throughout the bidding process, Ellerbe Becket was in discussions with Los Angeles-based AECOM Technology Corp. about a possible acquisition. In October 2009, weeks after the Fort Benning project was awarded, AECOM closed the deal to acquire Ellerbe Becket. Turner was not aware of the acquisition until hours before it was announced on Oct. 26, according to Turner officials.
The acquisition announcement raised concerns about possible conflicts of interest because another AECOM-owned firm had previously been contracted on the project. In 2007, the Army contracted a joint venture of HSMM and HOK for early design work, including preparation of the design concept, the request for proposals and the technical evaluation of proposals. HSMM is a unit of AECOM.
Shortly after the Ellerbe Becket merger with AECOM was announced, the two competing joint ventures filed protests with GAO that alleged “biased ground rules” and “impaired objectivity.” GAO ultimately recommended that the Turner contract be terminated and a new contract awarded. In February, the Corps halted work on the project and decided to follow GAO’s recommendation, terminating the contract on March 23.
Turner protested and the case went to the U.S. Court of Federal Claims. In a July 8 decision, Judge Bohdan A. Futey ruled in favor of Turner and ordered the contract be reinstated. In his decision, Judge Futey agreed with Turner’s claim that “the GAO failed to adhere to the appropriate standard of review.”
Site work was already under way at the project before it was halted in February. The project was originally scheduled for completion in mid-2013. A new completion date has not been announced.