Construction company sues PPS over extra work performed at Beverly Cleary School

An image from cellphone video shows one classroom in disarray at Beverly Cleary Fernwood.

The contractor tasked with construction and improvements to the Beverly Cleary School at Fernwood, that resulted in school being delayed a day, has filed a lawsuit against Portland Public Schools for breach of contract, among other allegations.

According to the complaint filed in Multnomah County Circuit Court, dated April 8, Corp Inc., a Salem-based company, alleges PPS failed to pay the contractor for extra work performed at the school totaling about $523,000.

"The contract set forth specific dates for commencement and completion of the work. In accordance with the Contract, [Corp Inc.] was scheduled to begin its work on June 13, 2018, and complete all phases of the work by January 31, 2019. Over the course of the Project, additional work was required by PPS beyond the terms of the Contract, and which was required to be paid pursuant to Modifications of the Contract," the allegations in the complaint explain. "The additional work was created due to design inconsistencies, unforeseen conditions, undocumented asbestos and resulting abatement, and other increases in the scope of work, including measures to prevent attendant delays."

In August 2018, KATU reported on delays in construction that forced the delay of the start date. After a one-day delay, students returned to classrooms and hallways at Beverly Cleary School that were still full of construction materials. Though the school was open to students, work continued both during and outside normal school hours.

On January 9, 2019, Portland Public Schools issued a Notice of Termination for Cause, alleging that Corp Inc. disregarded orders on the job site by the district and that Corp Inc. failed to observe safety and other precautions.

District officials responded briefly to KATU's request for comment on the lawsuit filed in Multnomah County by sharing the letter of termination that outlines the reasoning by the district.

One reason included alleges that loud work was performed despite orders to halt construction that would be disruptive.

"After occupancy of the school in August, District gave clear orders to Contractor to not perform work that would be excessively noisy as to disturb the learning environment of the school. After numerous complaints of loud construction noise from roofing activity disturbing the learning environment, District gave clear written orders to Contractor to not perform any work that would transmit impact noises or rotary motor sounds into the building. To ensure compliance with this order District posted a District staff member at District’s expense near areas with active construction to monitor for noise," the termination notice states. "On September 26th, 2018 District’s monitoring staff member temporarily left the construction area to attend to another issue. As soon as District’s staff member left the roof area where work was taking place, Contractor deliberately proceeded with extremely noisy work (i.e., operating a demolition saw directly above an open skylight and occupied classroom below)."

KATU reached out to the attorney representing Corp Inc. for additional clarification and comment on the pending lawsuit, though we have not heard back.

The complaint alleges that PPS failed to mediate in good faith, within the terms of the contract. Corp Inc. said they promptly responded to the termination letter and asked for mediation to avoid any higher damages. Corp Inc. alleges that, "PPS continues to refuse access to Project documents," and has, "gone out of its way to obstruct the mediation process."

Corp Inc. cites this "obfuscation, bad faith, and stone-walling" as the reason for filing the lawsuit.

The contractor is seeking a trial and relief on damages to the tune of $523,894.43 plus additional attorney fees.

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