BY GREGORY A. HALL
The Cincinnati Enquirer
CRESTVIEW HILLS -- A Carroll Properties executive testified Tuesday that the company's settlement with Kenton County over a bid scandal didn't cover half the profit in its proposal.
Carroll Vice President Mark Simendinger said he was disappointed with the county's $350,000 settlement offer after the company had initially demanded $1.1 million. But he decided Carroll should take it anyway.
Carroll and Wessels Construction and Development Corp. settled their lawsuit against the county in February for $850,000. Wessels received $500,000.
The county is suing the winning bidder, Bill Butler's Corporex Cos., to recoup the $850,000 settlement in the $35.6 million courthouse and garage construction projects.
Wessels and Carroll claimed Corporex had an upper hand in winning the $35.6 million contracts. The county accuses Mr. Butler of manipulating the process in his company's favor.
Corporex denies any wrongdoing.
Mr. Butler is scheduled to testify in a deposition today.
On Tuesday, Mr. Simendinger and Carroll President Jerry Carroll, who also co-owns Turfway Park racetrack and wants to build a stock car speedway in Gallatin County, gave their side of the story.
Carroll's profit would have been $800,000, Mr. Simendinger said.
For a $35.6 million project, the county's offering was small, he said. "It's a big deal, and that's what we do for a living."
Mr. Carroll testified that he gave Mr. Simendinger $60,000 for his work on the project and the company still has the rest.
Some of the money could go to the companies Carroll worked with on the county project.
"I don't know who will end up with the rest of the money, if any," Mr. Carroll said. "That will have to be looked at."
Carroll didn't join the lawsuit, initially filed by Wessels in October 1996, until a private meeting where Mr. Butler was allowed to see his competitors bids became known in December 1997. That meeting at the home of then-Judge-executive Clyde Middleton had taken place the night the bids were opened, April 2, 1996.
Initially, Mr. Simendinger said, he decided not to sue because there wasn't enough evidence -- even though he felt the process hadn't gone according to plan.
The decision not to sue had nothing to do with the county's selection of Carroll to build a jail, Mr. Simendinger said. Those plans ultimately died.
"We decided not to enter into the lawsuit because at that period in time we didn't realize what later came to light," he said. "Had we had all those facts in front of us, we would have filed the lawsuit at that time."
County officials let developers see some of their competitors' drawings in the weeks after the bid opening. But Mr. Simendinger said that did little for judging one proposal against another. "The design becomes important when you have it contrasted with the cost information," he said.
According to testimony so far, Mr. Butler was the only developer who had the chance to review competitors' entire bid packages between the time they were opened and when the county chose Corporex.
"The problem isn't whether somebody had access to a design," Mr. Simendinger said. "The problem is if you had both (the cost figures and design drawings); if you had one bidder who had both and the other didn't have access to it. That is an unfair situation, and that is what caused us to file a suit."