Alaska court says 2 men can sue in bidding dispute

Posted: Monday, May 17, 2010

FAIRBANKS - The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that two Fairbanks businessmen can sue state employees over their role in the bidding process on a $60 million state contract.

The court decided Friday that state procurement officials have only partial immunity from lawsuits and rejected state arguments for absolute immunity.

The decision allows a lawsuit by Jerry Bowers of Bowers Investment Co. and Andy Bachner of Bachner Company Inc. to proceed in Fairbanks Superior Court.

The contract in 2002 was for an Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities office building, reportedly one of the largest state contracts for lease space in Fairbanks' history.

In the unanimous opinion by Chief Justice Walter L. Carpeneti, the court said that partial or qualified immunity still offers "substantial protection from liability."

The court found that "this is not a situation where unfettered discretion is crucial to the best interests of the public."

Lawyers for the state of Alaska had argued that anything less than absolute immunity would encourage losing bidders to sue procurement officials.

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