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Confusing inferences

Letter to the editor

Posted: Friday, August 20, 2004

Having recently received notice that the two-month Aurora Basin electrical blackout scheduled to end on Aug. 20 has been extended to Sept. 1 in another of our city engineers' masterful public works projects, I was impressed by the speed with which Chief Capital Improvement Project Engineer Rorie Watts generated his defense of the city's half-million-dollar lawsuit payoff.

Watts seems to infer (a favorite word of his) that the city did nothing wrong but paid $579,500 to keep an allegedly incompetent construction company from the results of its own errors. He suggests that a defense of the city's innocence "could" have cost the city $300,000 for lawyers and experts. Aside from his inferred vote of no confidence in the city law department and engineering expertise, he makes me wonder what city attorneys do with their time; apparently not reviewing contracts or bid documents.

Watt also claims the taxpayers would buy his deal but that juries couldn't make a fair decision. Don't taxpayers sit on juries? He then declares the city "chose the lesser evil" in the settlement. That is mere supposition, not fact.

Then he gets confusing.

He wrote that the city hired Peratrovich Nottingham & Drage and required insurance to protect the city against "claims of errors." Isn't that exactly the claim brought by BOSS Construction? What happened to the insurance coverage?

Watt continued that the city sued PN&D which "chose to defend their client." How? It looks like the city paid $579,000 to prevent a trial in which some "notoriously unpredictable" jury could have found that PN&D was at fault.

The Empire's Aug. 4 report on the settlement said: "(City Attorney John) Hartle was not privy to the agreement, he said, and officials at the companies were not talking Tuesday." Watts wrote that the city and PN&D jointly negotiated a settlement and "PN&D desired to keep their settlement confidential. CBJ agreed to honor that request."

If the news account is correct, Watt seems to infer Hartle volunteered to keep himself, or the city, ignorant of the settlement terms or Watt was inferring choice where there was none. The public still doesn't know anything about the deal PN&D cut with BOSS.

I apologize if I left Watt with only the inference that that settlement is somehow improper or unduly secretive. It is grossly and improperly secretive. Watt's letter infers the city's chief CIP engineer is more interested in protecting his colleagues in the private sector instead of the public interest.

Bob Tkacz

Juneau



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