Two Brighton Area School Board Trustees are at odds over which construction firm should be hired to carry out the district's $88.4 million bond issue.
Trustee John Conley said it is unethical to allow one of the four companies in the running to bid on the job since Trustee Bill Trombley works for it.
"I feel like I'm going to throw up," Conely said about Granger Construction Company of Lansing putting in a bid. "This is the biggest conflict of interest. I think it's great that you have your experience and your ability, and I believe that we can utilize that ability, but I think it's bad news and a true conflict of interest."
Currently, there are four firms in the running: Clark Construction Company in Lansing, Barton Malow in Southfield, George W. Auch Company in Pontiac and Granger, where Trombley happens to work as the director of Southeast Michigan Operations.
"Here's the thing, the bonding issue cannot be understated," Maria Gistinger, assistant superintendent of finance said. "We have already been burned in this district by hiring companies that do not have the financial capability to provide construction management that we need.
"I can't emphasize how critical this decision is for the success of this bond issue," she said. "Our construction manager will make or break this project for us. So we can't just pick anybody that we think may possibly do. We have to look at their application, we have to look at their ability to bond, we have to look at their reputation as far as managing huge millions and millions of dollar projects for other school districts. We can't just entertain people who are just starting in the business or who may not have the ability to bond a multi-million dollar project."
Gistinger said she had spoken with the district's legal counsel who advised that there would need to be heavy disclosures about Trombley's relationship with the company and project as well as an abstention from the vote, which Trombley had already said he would do.
Gistinger also said that she and Superintendent Greg Gray gathered several peoples' input about how to go about hiring a construction manager for the project, not just Trombley's.
Both Conely and fellow Trustee Miles Vieau said they wanted to consider more than the current four companies on the list.
"We're building a brand new high school, we're basically doing an addition," Vieau said. "There are a lot of (smaller) companies out there who could handle that."
Gray mentioned that he wanted to stay away from smaller companies because it will be easier to manage one company rather than varous small ones to do different jobs.
Trombley said that his expertise should be welcomed by other school board members to help the district successfully execute the projects to be paid for by the bond.
"Here's my point, I want to make sure this district get's the best bang for the buck," Trombley said to Conely. "I think you would be happy to have someone who understands this process who can identify potential areas where there could be misuse of money. If you have that expertise, then by all means, please step forward and lead the charge. If you don't, then please let someone who does have it at least be able to educate you in some of these other areas, along with some of the other board members, to make sure this project is a financial success and the money is spent correctly for the things it is supposed to be spent for."
"Just as long as your company's not doing it, I'm all set," Conely said.
The school board will hold a special meeting to interview the four companies at 6 p.m. on May 31 at the . The interviews will feature scripted questions from board members. Afterwards, board members will meet alone to open the bids and possibly come to a decision.