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Minority contracting advocate sues city, Ripken Foundation over Park Heights field

Justice SystemCal RipkenStephanie Rawlings-BlakePimlico Race CourseGeorge Nilson

A longtime minority contracting advocate has filed a lawsuit against Baltimore and the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, alleging the creation of a new baseball field in Park Heights is bypassing competitive bidding requirements.

In the lawsuit filed in Baltimore Circuit Court, Arnold M. Jolivet alleges the city violated the law when awarding the $2 million project to develop a youth ballpark near Pimlico Race Course.

"Mayor Rawlings‐Blake and the Board of Estimates simply voted to award the contract to the Cal Ripken Sr. Foundation, Inc., completely without seeking any competitive bids from other interested and qualified bidders," Jolivet's lawsuit states.

In an email, City Solicitor George Nilson said his lawyers would seek a quick dismissal of the suit, which was filed last week.

"The suit has no merit whatsoever and the city will defend vigorously in order to insure that the children have this modern recreational facility at the earliest possible time," he said.

In May, the city's Board of Estimates, which is controlled by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, approved a funding agreement for the park.

Under the agreement, the Cal Ripken Sr. foundation, named for the late Orioles manager, will contribute $600,000 to build a new baseball field in Park Heights — one of several fields it's helping to create for at-risk youths in Maryland and across the country.

According to the deal, the city is expected to provide $1.4 million, including $700,000 from slots revenue and $700,000 from a state grant for the development of open space.

City lawyers said the Ripken foundation made its donation contingent on the hiring of its selected contractor, Henry H. Lewis Contractors. The legal staff said the contractor is expected to charge less for construction than the city estimates anticipated.

Jolivet's suit also challenges the "propriety and outright legality" of another Board of Estimates decision. In June, the panel voted to award a $20 million information technology staffing contract to Telecommunication Systems Inc., though the company had bid about $16.4 million for the work. City officials argued at the time that the higher figure would allow the company to perform additional work, if needed, without having to seek a new round of bids.

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Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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Justice SystemCal RipkenStephanie Rawlings-BlakePimlico Race CourseGeorge Nilson
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