Friday, October 28, 2016

Joplin R-8 School District reaches settlement with P1 Group

The Joplin R-8 School District has reached a settlement with the P1 Group, the Lenexa, Kansas, based electrical contractor that worked on the Joplin High School project.

The district's director of communications Kelli Price released the following statement less than an hour ago:

During the September 27, 2016 Board of Education closed session meeting, the board approved an agreement between Joplin Schools, P1 Group, Inc. and Universal Construction Company. 

The agreement contains a confidentiality clause at the request of the parties to the case and settles the pending legal dispute relating to compensation for P1 Group’s work performed during the construction of the new Joplin High School/Franklin Technology Center. 

Pursuant to the Missouri Sunshine Law, the settlement agreement will be available upon final disposition of the matter upon written request made in compliance with Missouri’s Sunshine Law.

The district initially filed the lawsuit after learning that P1 was readying a lawsuit in an effort to collect $6.5 million the company said the district owed due to unsuccessful efforts by former Superintendent C. J. Huff to get the building open in time in August 2014.

In the lawsuit, the district claimed the P1 Group had done a poor job, even though it continued to employ the firm all the way through the construction of the auditorium.

P1 filed a countersuit in April 2015and included in the documents filed with the countersuit were letters and e-mails that showed P1 warned Superintendent C. J. Huff and Universal Construction that delays in construction plus the push to make sure Joplin High School opened in August 2014 were going to cost plenty, including overtime, but the response was always full speed ahead.

An e-mail sent by Huff to P1 says that the Board of Education discussed P1's request for more money during a closed session in July 2014. If Huff was telling the truth about that discussion, that would indicate that the board acted illegally, since at that time there was no litigation involving P1 and the school district, and other documents indicate the district did not consult a lawyer until September, thus the request should have been discussed in open session.

But the extra costs seem to have all been caused by the push to open the high school in August 2014, according to the countersuit:

Completion of P1 Group’s work on the Project was materially delayed as a result of actions by Joplin Schools, UCC, Corner Greer and/or other contractors, consultants or professionals hired by Joplin Schools.Joplin Schools was aware of the delays on the Project.

Because of the unavailability of other facilities for the students beginning in the fall of 2014, Joplin Schools could not extend the schedule for the Project to account for the delays. As a result of the delays, P1 Group’s work on the Project was accelerated as it had to perform its work in a compressed time frame.

Beginning in November 2013, P1 Group began working overtime on the Project at the direction of UCC in order to help reduce the impact of the delays on the Project attributable to persons other than P1 Group. P1 Group continued to work overtime at UCC’s direction until the new school opened.

Following two meetings with Joplin Schools in June, the company received a message from C. J. Huff, according to the countersuit:

On July 3, 2014, Joplin Schools’ Superintendent, Dr. CJ Huff sent an email to P1 Group advising that he had met with the Joplin School Board’s Facilities Committee and that he had talked with the individual members of the Facilities Committee. (Note: The committee consisted of Mike Landis and Jim Kimbrough.)

Dr. Huff reported that they were “comfortable” taking P1 Group’s request for compensation related to the directed acceleration to the School Board at the July 2014 meeting. On behalf of Joplin Schools, Dr. Huff requested P1 Group to provide a “not to exceed” number for the acceleration impacts through Project completion.

On July 11, 2014, in response to Dr. Huff’s email, P1 Group sent a letter to Joplin Schools, with a copy to UCC and Corner Greer, requesting a change order in the amount of $2,912,000 to cover the anticipated costs related to the delays and acceleration on the Project.

On July 22, 2014, Dr. Huff, on behalf of Joplin Schools, sent an email to P1 Group advising that he was presenting P1 Group’s request for compensation to the Board that evening and anticipated questions from the Board. Dr. Huff also advised that he appreciated P1 Group’s commitment to helping Joplin Schools achieve its goals.

On July 26, 2014, Dr. Huff, on behalf of Joplin Schools, sent an email to P1 Group advising that, as expected, the Board had a number of questions regarding P1 Group’s claim. Dr. Huff explained: “Due to the size of the billing, I think they just want to be comfortable that they can justify the expense when asked by patrons and the media.”

None of the documents filed in the suit and countersuit, except for the district's original petition made any mention of any problems with the P1 Group's work.

To date, the district has paid its law firm, Polsinelli, PC, Kansas City, at least $1,070,723.07, including $582,587.74 in the last four months.

Huff, who "retired" in 2015, is still being paid his superintendent's salary through the end of December and received a $50,000 payment for "consulting," which is strictly to cover his help in preparing for the lawsuit he caused in the first place.


Anonymous said...

Huff...the gift that keeps on giving.

Yup. said...

The old joke goes...

"Why are divorces so expensive?
Because they are worth it!"

When the last bit of milk from the R8 teet dries on little Charlie's chin, he will fade into the obscurity he so richly deserves. All that will remain is the legacy of a cautionary tale of just how bad things can get when a certain type of people are allowed to wield power.