Judge dismisses suit over Alabama state contract

AP News
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Posted: Dec 24, 2009 8:31 AM

A judge dismissed a lawsuit filed by Alabama legislators trying to block a $13 million unbid computer contract signed by Republican Gov. Bob Riley.

Jefferson County Circuit Judge Tom King on Wednesday threw out the lawsuit seeking to stop an extension of the state Finance Department's $13 million deal with Paragon Source LLC _ a company with no listed business phone number and no Web site.

King ruled that members of a legislative oversight committee and chairman Democratic Rep. Alvin Holmes of Montgomery did not show that they had been personally harmed by the contract and did not have standing to file suit.

King said the Legislature's Contract Review Committee exercised its right to review contracts when it delayed the Paragon Source contract for 45 days. He ruled that committee members can't now claim that they have been harmed.

Paragon Source received the contract to upgrade the state's computer systems.

An attorney for the legislators, Tyrone Means of Montgomery, said the committee could appeal or refile the lawsuit in the name of an Alabama taxpayer. Holmes said they may also file in the name of a computer company that was not given a chance to bid on the work.

Riley said he was not surprised that that the judge threw out the lawsuit and blamed the legal fight on Democrats on the Contract Review Committee.

"We said from the beginning this lawsuit was frivolous and a waste of taxpayer money," Riley said. "Today the judge confirmed just that. It's over. Now it's time for the Democrats to stop playing politics and quit wasting everyone's time."

Disappointed by King's decision, Holmes said he was talking with committee members about what action to take next.

"We are not going to sit idly by and let them take $13 million and not tell the people of Alabama what they are doing for the money," Holmes said.

Finance Director Bill Newton defended the work being done by Paragon Source.

"The state played by the rules. Paragon is performing important, complex work for the state," Newton said.

In his ruling, King noted that the contract review panel's role is advisory _ it can delay contracts for up to 45 days but can't stop them. King said the committee was trying to extend its powers and stop a contract through the suit.