FORT SMITH — The city of Fort Smith is suing state Sen. Jake Files, R-Fort Smith, and Sebastian County Election Commissioner Lee Webb to pay to finish a sports complex on which they were the developers and to return $26,946 in state grant money, the city administrator said.
The city terminated its contract with the River Valley Sports Complex on Feb. 7 after Files and Webb repeatedly missed deadlines to finish the sports complex on city-owned property at Chaffee Crossing. The city entered into the contract in March 2014, expecting the project to be completed by June 2015. The city agreed to donate $1.6 million to the project in installments and had already donated $1.08 million before severing the contract.
The state grant money, a General Improvement Fund grant, was wired to unlicensed contractor Dianna Gonzalez on Dec. 30 and was intended to be used for water line work.
None of the work that Gonzalez was hired to do has been completed, although the money was wired to her, City Administrator Carl Geffken said.
“The money should be, frankly, sitting in her account, and whatever was spent should be easily determined. We did ask for bank records from her, and we have not received them,” he said.
The city had applied for the GIF grant from the Western Arkansas Planning and Development District on behalf of the RVSC. Gonzalez was one of three bidders for the grant. The two other bidders on the application, Lego Construction of Greenwood for $54,145.91 and Williams Power & Lighting Inc. of Pocola for $60,165.91, have said they did not submit bids.
Files has said he did not falsify bids and has not provided proof that they submitted bids. WAPDD did not confirm the bids before issuing the check. When the staff returned in January after the holiday break, they noticed “red flags,” WAPDD Executive Director Sasha Grist previously told the Times Record.
Grist issued a letter to Geffken that states the quote from J&B Supply for materials is out-of-date, Gonzalez’s address is not a valid address and all three quotes list the same order number.
Four subcontractors who were not paid for work they did on the RVSC are suing the city for a total of $200,120.78 — B&A Electric Inc. is suing for $151,880 for labor and materials; James Griffith is suing for $20,337.20 for framing materials, construction and labor; Megehee Fence Contracting, LLC is suing for $14,926.08 for fencing materials and labor; and Grimes Dozer Service Inc. is suing for $12,977.50 for dirt work and labor.
Files previously told the Times Record that as far as he and Webb were concerned, it was not their responsibility to pay B&A Electric now that the contract with the city is terminated.
Geffken has repeatedly said since the lawsuits were filed that, per the contract, the RVSC was never an agent of the city and that it was on Files and Webb to pay any subcontractors.
In addition to suing the RVSC to pay to finish the sports complex and for the GIF money, the city is also suing the RVSC to indemnify — or take responsibility for — the subcontractors and to pay for the city’s legal fees, Geffken said.
The city’s internal auditor, Tracey Shockley, is continuing to perform an audit, he said.
“A state senator should never put us in this position,” Geffken said.
Neither Files nor Webb responded to calls for comment Monday.