Hearing set for County/Ausbern lawsuit

1STOCK COURT NEWS Gavel On FlagHOUSTON – A hearing to determine when and where a lawsuit between Chickasaw County and Ausbern Construction will go to court is tentatively set for Monday in Houston.

Circuit Court Judge Andrew Howorth is being asked in court filings to compel production of documents from engineer Ed Springer, determining the status of the case and setting a trial date and to consider changing the venue of the trial to a surrounding county.

A partial summary judgment has been given by Judge Howorth saying the county and Ed Springer breached their contract with Ausbern Construction by not paying for excess gravel used to repair County Road 4.

Howorth’s judgment did not specify if Chickasaw County or Ed Springer and his bonding company was liable for the amount.

At the heart of the case is the payment for grading and resurfacing 1.39-miles of County Road 4. Ausbern’s bid of $396,566 for the work was accepted by the county and awarded on Nov. 23, 2010.

The suit filed by Ausbern Construction said the county breached its contract and Ausbern is owed not less than $220,000 in damages.

Motions filed by interim Chickasaw County Board Attorney Gary Lee Carnathan said the county has tried to point out the extra gravel needed by Ausbern should have been addressed in a change order and decided by all parties before the work was done.

Ausbern Construction filed a suit against the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors and Springer Engineering in early 2012 seeking payment for work the company did at the alleged direction of the county and its engineer.

Ausbern Construction is owned by the family of then Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors Attorney Elizabeth Ausbern. That circumstance prompted the county to hire the firm of Carnathan & McAuley, of Tupelo, to handle legal duties for the Board of Supervisors.

Ausbern Construction’s suit contends County Engineer Ed Springer underestimated the amount of material needed to resurface the road, knew Ausbern Construction would be putting down 19,944-cubic yards of materials on a bid that specified 7,689-cubic yards and that Springer failed to notify state and local authorities of this change so Ausbern Construction could be paid accordingly. The suit also seeks additional damages allegedly incurred by Ausbern Construction since that time due to the county’s failure to pay promptly for the work.

A letter from State Aid District Engineer Joel S. Bridges dated Feb. 2, 2012 recommended payment for 17,700 cubic yards. The letter also said there was an error in the plans used to bid the job.

Potential conflict of interest has also prompted Judge John Gregory to recuse himself from hearing the case, since Gregory was the county attorney prior to Elizabeth Ausbern’s election to the post last summer.


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