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Judge delays action on 215 Beltway project

Updated Monday, Oct. 19, 2009 | 1:29 p.m.

A federal judge this morning ordered the Clark County Commission not to vote Tuesday on bids for a $100 million-plus highway project on the northern 215 Beltway.

Federal Court Judge Robert Jones scheduled a Nov. 2 hearing on whether to grant a preliminary injunction that would allow the court to first hear the complaint of Commissioner Tom Collins.

The action suspends Jones' Aug. 25 order that required the commission to review the bids for the widening project between Decatur Boulevard and Tenaya Way.

Collins filed a lawsuit in opposition of a federal court decision, also by Jones, that included Collins and Commissioner Steve Sisolak willingly waiving their right to vote on awarding the contract for the highway project. Collins sued, alleging that Fisher, Las Vegas Paving and Clark County attorneys agreed to keep him from re-voting without ever bothering to consult him on the issue.

The legal maneuvers stem from the County Commission’s repeated refusals to award the contract to Fisher Sand & Gravel earlier this year. Though Fisher had the lowest bid by $4 million, a majority of the commissioners said Fisher was not a “responsible bidder.” They gave the contract to the next highest bidder, Las Vegas Paving.

Fisher sued, alleging it was denied due process and that some commissioners were too influenced by unions that supported Las Vegas Paving.

The commission was scheduled to review bids and possibly award the construction contract at its Tuesday meeting without Collins and Sisolak.

Andrew Smith, Collins’ lawyer, said as an elected official on a board that represents constituents, the question is whether he has a guaranteed right to vote.

Politicians often recuse themselves for conflicts of interest. However, members of the public forcing an elected official to sustain from voting is the opposite of how voting rights have been legally argued before, Smith said.

“It seems to me, once you’ve been elected and have taken the oath of office, you have the right to do your job,” he said.

The initial suit, filed by Fisher, names the county and not any individual commissioner. Fisher filed the suit in April claiming the commission relied on false information in rejecting its bid, which was $4.6 million less than the one from Las Vegas Paving.

After rejecting the bid a second time, Fisher sought an injunction in federal court claiming the commission violated its due process rights by not allowing company representatives a chance to respond to allegations raised during a commission hearing.

However, the deal was reached to allow the commission to review bids a third time without Collins and Sisolak before Jones issued a decision on the injunction.

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