The losing bidder on the financial services contract with the city of Sandy Springs accuses the city of steering the contract to another company that hired a former city employee.

In a lawsuit, filed in Fulton County Superior Court, CGA/JAT Joint Venture LLC said the city changed the requirements for the bid without informing all the bidders.

CGA/JAT Joint Venture asks the court to declare the contract illegal and set it aside and to order the city to repay the company for the costs of its bid preparation and the lawsuit.

City Attorney Wendell Willard said in an email that it would not be appropriate “to have the city delve into a media point/counterpoint on this very important case.”

In its lawsuit, CGA/JAT Joint Venture says the city had contracted with CH2M Hill for its financial services. CH2M Hill contracts with the city for most of its services, other than its police and fire departments. The company opted last year not to pursue the financial services contract, the lawsuit said.

The city issued a request for proposal on its financial services in December and two companies – CGA/JAT Joint Venture and Severn Trent — bid on the contract, according to the lawsuit. The new contract is to begin July 1, 2011, after a phase-in period, the lawsuit said.

Severn Trent hired Sandy Spring’s former assistant city manager and finance director to help prepare its bid, the lawsuit said.

The city initially required that bidders retrain CH2M Hill employees. Later, the city “surreptitiously” dropped that requirement, the lawsuit said. The city didn’t tell CGA/JAT of the change, the lawsuit said, but did tell Severn Trent.

CGA/JAT’s bid was for $2.9 million, which included approximately $1.7 million to cover the cost of salaries and benefits for the CH2M Hill employees, the lawsuit said. Severn Trent won the contract with a bid of about $1.6 million, which did not include the cost of retaining the CH2M Hill employees, according to the lawsuit.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.