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October 22, 2014

Oxford Lawsuit claims breached contract with architect

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Posted: Wednesday, June 11, 2014 5:05 pm | Updated: 9:33 pm, Wed Jun 11, 2014.

A lawsuit filed this week against the city of Oxford alleges the city breached a contract it had with an Anniston architectural firm.

City officials declined to comment this week, citing the pending court case, but City Council members have said the council never approved the contract and that the firm was paid for the work it did.  

Court records show that the Anniston firm Dean, Tyler Burns Architecture alleges in the lawsuit, filed Monday, that Oxford hired it in October 2007 to draft plans for the renovation of the Oxford Civic Center. According to the suit, the firm drafted those plans and estimated costs for the work, but on June 25, 2008, Oxford’s attorney told the firm that the contract was terminated because the council had never approved it.

The lawsuit states the firm is asking to be compensated “in an amount to be determined by a struck jury.”

Dwight Rice, acting attorney for the city, said Wednesday that he had not seen the lawsuit and could not comment until looking into the matter further.

Attempts to reach Rice’s brother, city attorney Bruce Rice, for comment Wednesday were unsuccessful.

The renovation plans were the subject of debate between council members and the mayor at the time. Council members criticized Mayor Leon Smith for having paid Dean, Tyler Burns $9,000 without the council’s OK for work that other firms were doing for free in hope of winning a contract. The council later voted 3-2 to pay the firm another $6,000 after more debate. Goodwyn Mills and Cawood was hired in 2009 to design the project.

“It’s something that happened several years ago,” said Councilman Mike Henderson by phone Wednesday.

Henderson said the city had thought the matter was settled, but he declined to comment on the details, citing the ongoing litigation.

“The city of Oxford entered into a contract with my client, and we feel that they breached the contract,” the firm’s attorney, Richard Bell, said by phone Wednesday.

Bell said Oxford’s former attorney John Phillips told the firm that “the City Council had not approved the contract, but council members met with my client on several occasions and said go ahead and do it.”

“It may have not been in writing,” Bell said, but council members reviewed the firm’s work on more than one occasion and approved it, he alleged.

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