Flintco claims Palo Alto won’t shovel over entitled library documents

The contractor fired from the long-delayed $28 million Mitchell Park library project is suing the city, claiming it violated the open records law by not handing over public documents it sought regarding the project.

Finger pointingThe city fired Flintco in January after months of accusations and finger-pointing over the troubled project, which was supposed to have been finished by April 2011. The city now has another contractor and says the Middlefield Road library will open in November.

Flintco said that the years-long delay was caused by hundreds of changes the city made, though it’s architect, “to address the inconsistencies, inaccuracies and gaps in the projects plans and specifications,” according to the lawsuit filed July 17 in Santa Clara County Superior Court.

In February, a month after being fired, Flintco handed the city and open records request that “in essence asked for all of the city’s documents regarding the project.”

It appears Flintco was requesting the documents in anticipation of litigation over the trouble project. On March 25th, city officials met with Flintco executives and made some of the documents available in hard copy form and on a flash drive.

“During the course of inspection, however, Flintco realized that the city was producing large quantities of documents that Flintco had not even requested and that the flash drive, in large part, duplicated the documents made available in hard copy for inspection,” the lawsuit states.

Most of the documents Flintco sought were withheld by the city, saying they were exempt from disclosure under the open records law. In refusing to turn over those documents, “the city’s response was a laundry list of boilerplate privileges and exemptions the city apparently relied upon to withhold responsive documents,” the lawsuit stated.

The lawsuit states that the city withheld some of the documents saying they were protected by attorney-client privilege or that they were “protected attorney work project.”  But Flintco said such a claim was implausible because the documents were communications between the city and third parties, not attorneys.

The city withheld documents claiming they were “draft reports” or documents that show the city’s “deliberative process,” which are two more reasons a city can give for not producing documents.

City hires out side counsel

When Flintco turned up the heat on the city for not producing the documents the city retained a private attorney, David W. Ginn, who intended to hire a consultant to find the documents Flintco was seeking.

But the lawsuit said Ginn told Flintco that the city was “having difficulty in gathering all the documents responsive to the request”. The suit said Ginn has declined to state when the request would be fulfilled.

City Attorney Molly Stump told the Post yesterday that the city gave Flintco thousands of pages of documents and was getting ready to turn over thousands more when it received the lawsuit. Flintco’s request for documents was so broad and general that it inhibited the city from responding, according to Stump.

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