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Construction company alleges reverse discrimination by city school board

A Timonium construction company has cited reverse race and sex discrimination in seeking to prevent Baltimore City’s Board of School Commissioners from moving forward on a project to replace Waverly Elementary School.

CAM Construction Co. Inc. filed a temporary restraining order application and a motion for preliminary injunction on Wednesday in Baltimore’s U.S. District Court, alleging that the company was passed over despite being the lowest bidder on the multimillion-dollar school construction project.

CAM put in a bid of $25.49 million on the project, but despite coming in at $285,000 less than the next highest bidder, the company was passed over because it had not yet met the goal levels of minority business enterprise, or MBE.

M. Marc Munafo, president of CAM Construction, said the company should have been granted a waiver under the state’s MBE laws since it had demonstrated a good-faith effort to meet those goals. He said the waiver was requested at the time the bids were submitted in June, and since that time, CAM Construction has lined up minority and women involvement above MBE goal levels.

CAM Construction officially protested the intended contract grant to Roy Kirby & Sons Inc. on two occasions, but the board on Tuesday moved forward, awarding the project to the Baltimore-based company.

Munafo said if Tuesday’s decision was made to expedite the projected two-year long project, it will now be slowed down as the project faces court scrutiny.

“They forced me to take this to federal court. I didn’t want to go this route, but I had no choice,” Munafo said. “Now, they’re facing a temporary restraining order and trial and they’re spending an extra $300,000 of taxpayer money on the other bid.”

According to a press release, CAM Construction is represented by Charles S. Fax and Scott A. Livingston from the Bethesda office of Rifkin, Livingston, Levitan & Silver LLC, as well as Robert F. Dashiell of the eponymous Baltimore firm. The three lawyers could not be reached by press time.

Calls to the Board of School Commissioners were not returned.

The MBE program in Maryland was created in 1978 by the state General Assembly to encourage minority-owned firms’ participation in the state procurement process. The school board had a goal of 37 percent total MBE involvement in the Waverly project.

In its lawsuit, CAM Construction said it had proceeded in good faith to meet the minority business enterprise goals, would have met them eventually, and, according to the statutes governing MBE involvement, should have been given a waiver and the winning bid. Instead, the project was awarded to another contractor who had met the MBE involvement goals by the June bidding deadline.

Munafo said the board’s decision flew in the face of a recommendation from Luwanda W. Jenkins, special secretary of the Governor’s Office of Minority Affairs, who reviewed CAM’s proposal and found that it had made good faith efforts and should receive a waiver. In an Aug. 5 letter to the board, Jenkins wrote that if a bidder provides evidence of making a good faith effort, a waiver must be granted under the state regulations.

“I sincerely hope that you will reconsider your previous decisions with regard to CAM Construction’s bid for the Waverly Elementary School Project as it is my belief that CAM has more than met both the spirit as well as the letter of the law with respect to MBE inclusion as evidenced by both the company’s ongoing commitment to MBE inclusion as well as the requisite documentation presented for this project,” Jenkins wrote.

A hearing on the request for a temporary restraining order is scheduled for Thursday morning before District Judge Richard D. Bennett.

CAM Construction was founded in 1962 and is a privately held company that specializes in school, church and other commercial construction. The company is on the list of approved construction managers for city school projects. CAM Construction’s projects include the Paul Laurence Dunbar High School renovation in Baltimore and the construction of the Our Daily Bread Employment Center, also in Baltimore.