DENVER – The city of Denver announced Tuesday it had stopped the bidding process for the $233 million Colorado Convention Center expansion and asked the Denver District Attorney’s Office to investigate possible misconduct in the process.
Companies have been submitting bids for the design and build of the convention center since earlier this year. The expansion plans have been underway since June 2017.
But this week, the Denver City Attorney’s Office told Mayor Michael Hancock about a “willful violation” of the bidding process, and Hancock sent a letter to Denver District Attorney Beth McCann Tuesday asking for an investigation.
“The City has discovered potentially improper collusion between the City’s project management consultant and one of the proposers related to the procurement of a design build contractor for the Project,” Hancock wrote in the letter to McCann. “I request that your office investigate to determine whether any of this conduct rose to the level of criminal activity.”
City Attorney Kristin Bronson told Denver7 that a city public works employee noticed "something awry" with the project and alerted the city.
The mayor’s office said Denver Public Works was starting to interview contractors last month when “it was discovered that the required, open, fair and competitive process to select a contractor had been tainted,” according to a news release.
Bronson additionally said that so far investigators have not found any city employees were involved with the alleged improprieties.
The Denver City Attorney’s Office found that “the integrity of the procurement was irreparably compromised by non-city participants” by the release of city documents to a contractor that was bidding on the project; by “improper discussion” about the bidding process and by altering approved project plans, according to the mayor’s office.
The city is terminating a $9 million contact with Trammell Crow, which was providing program management services for the project, and will start a new process to find a new design and build contractor. The company said it was cooperating with the city and conducting its own internal investigation.
"The alleged actions in connection with the Colorado Convention Center project have in no way been authorized by Trammell Crow Company and are contrary to the firm's values and longstanding business practices," Trammell Crow Company Senior Managing Director Bill Mosher said in a statement. "We are cooperating fully with the City and are conducting our own internal investigation. We will take internal actions as the results of our investigation dictate, including appropriate disciplinary measures."
The mayor’s office additionally said that the executive director of public works is asking for a review of the prequalification status of one of the local companies bidding for the contract, Mortenson, for future projects.
Maja Rosenquist, a senior vice president at Mortenson, said in a statement to Denver7 that they will be cooperating with the district attorney’s office.
“We’ve received a letter from the City and County of Denver concerning termination of the RFP for the Colorado Convention Center Expansion project. We take the issues raised by the City very seriously and are committed to addressing this matter thoroughly and appropriately,” Rosenquist said in a statement. “We are conducting our own review of our participation in the RFP process and will cooperate with any further inquiries by the City or the District Attorney’s Office.”
Denver mayoral candidate Lisa Calderon, who has a pending lawsuit against the city, said that Denver voters "should be incensed" that such money was being lost.
"More and more, we're seeing people suing this administration for unfair contracts and practices and it's costing hte taxpayers at the end of the day. We're the ones that are footing the bill," she said.
Denver has said the expansion to the convention center and additional marketing could generate 25 more conventions each year and bring in an extra $85 million each year in economic impacts.
Denver7's Tom Mustin contributed to this report.