Denver Mayor Michael Hancock said Tuesday he was calling a halt to the contractor-selection process for the planned $233 million expansion of the Colorado Convention Center, issuing a statement citing "misconduct" in the process.

The city plans a multi-year expansion project at the downtown convention center so it can accommodate larger events. Plans call for adding 80,000 square feet of additional meeting space and a rooftop terrace.

The mayor's statement said that "the process of selecting a contractor began earlier this year. Last month, as Denver Public Works was preparing to conduct interviews [with bidders], it was discovered that the required, open, fair and competitive process to select a contractor had been tainted."

The statement said that a subsequent investigation by the office of City Attorney Kristin Bronson "uncovered that the integrity of the procurement was irreparably compromised by non-city participants through the:

  • Improper release of city documents to a contractor bidding on the project;
  • Improper discussions about the bidding process; and
  • Altering of approved project plans."

Hancock's statement said he was asking Denver District Attorney Beth McCann to investigate the matter.

"The city is terminating its contract with Trammell Crow, the company providing program management services for the expansion project," the statement said. "The city will restart the process to secure a design/build contractor with a new selection panel."

The statement did not indicate what role, if any, that Trammell Crow played in the alleged misconduct.

The city early this year authorized a three-year, $9 million contract with Trammel Crow to oversee construction. The company was to have a role in the selection of a contractor.

In response to the city's allegations, Trammell Crow issued this statement:

"The alleged actions in connection with the Colorado Convention Center project have in no way been authorized by Trammell Crow Company and are contrary to the firm’s values and longstanding business practices.  We are cooperating fully with the City and are conducting our own internal investigation. We will take internal actions as the results of our investigation dictate, including appropriate disciplinary measures."

“I was fully briefed by the City Attorney and her team yesterday," Hancock said in the statement. "We believe this is a significant breach of the public trust and a willful violation of a competitive bidding process. We will never tolerate this type of behavior from our contractors and will continue to address this swiftly and aggressively.”

The statement also makes reference to M.A. Mortenson Co., a construction company and one of three bidders on the convention center project, along with Hensel Phelps Construction Co. and PCL Construction Services.

The statement said that "Executive Director of Public Works, Eulois Cleckley, is requesting a review of Mortenson’s prequalification status for bidding on future projects. The city will also seek legislation to enhance the scope of the City’s debarment ordinance."

The statement does not explain the reference. Mortenson later issued this statement:

“We’ve received a letter from the City and County of Denver concerning termination of the RFP [request for proposal] for the Colorado Convention Center Expansion project. We take the issues raised by the City very seriously and are committed to addressing this matter thoroughly and appropriately. We are conducting our own review of our participation in the RFP process and will cooperate with any further inquiries by the City or the District Attorney’s Office.”

A request for proposal is a document in which bids for a project are solicited.

Ed Sealover of the Denver Business Journal reports that the restart on the bidding process "throws into question the timeline for the $233 million expansion."

"While the city has never put a specific timeline on the work, most estimates suggested construction could start in the second half of next year," Sealover says. "Those efforts are at a standstill, however."

Downtown Denver hotels in November 2017 voted to raise city lodging taxes in part to generate $4.7 million for the convention center project. Funds from a previous city bond sale also are earmarked for the project.

"With the reopening of the bid process, the city will work to minimize any delays and pursue all available legal remedies to recover damages," the statement adds.

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