School District Files Lawsuits Against Design Firms Over "Deficiencies"

More than two dozen lawsuits could yield the district $2 million, which could save some jobs.

By Vince Lattanzio
|  Tuesday, Aug 6, 2013  |  Updated 5:40 PM EDT
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School District Sues Design Firms for Millions

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The School District of Philadelphia is suing nearly two dozen architecture and design firms over millions of dollars worth of “design deficiencies” at district buildings.

Twenty-five lawsuits were filed by the district on July 29 in Pennsylvania’s Court of Common Pleas seeking up to $2 million in damages on projects done through the district’s Capital Improvement Program.

As part of the improvement program, firms bid on projects to rehab and repair older school district buildings and construct new facilities. The program seeks to address 25 years of “disinvestment” in school properties, according to a program description on the district’s website.

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District spokesman Fernando Gallard says in each case there were “deficiencies in the drawings and specifications” the firms prepared for the projects. The district has not said what the deficiencies were and how they impacted the buildings.

“The school district anticipates recovering up to $2 million as a result of these suits. The district intends to pursue these actions aggressively,” Gallard said in a statement.

Firms listed in the suits include architecture, design, engineering and consultant companies.

Robert Breslin, President of Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects, one of the firms named in a suit, said his firm worked with the district starting in 2004, but has yet to be notified about the legal action.

“Right now, there’s not a lawsuit because we haven’t been served,” he said. “We haven’t heard anything.”

Breslin says his firm had a contract with the district to renovate and add an addition to Henry W. Lawton Elementary School in the Tacony section of Philadelphia.

Vitteta Group principal Gary Pittman also says his firm is unaware of the proceedings.

“We haven’t seen it and we’re going to look at it and find out more,” he said.

Other firms shown in court documents include Agoos/Lovera Architects, Arora Engineers, Blackney Hays Architects, BWA Architecture & Planning, CDI Infrastructure, Converse Winkler Architecture, Corporate Networking, The Gibson Tarquini Group, GLP Architects, Kelly/Maiello, Inc. Architects and Planners, Maitra Associates, PZS Architects, LLC, Ross Barney Architects, Schrader Group Architecture, The Sheward Partnership, SMA/SRK Architects, SMP Architects, Synertech, United Consultants, USA Architects and Planners & Interior Designers.

The lawsuits come as the School District of Philadelphia works to find ways to close its $304 million budget deficit.

The shortfall has resulted in dramatic cuts to programs and extracurricular activities and the layoff of nearly 4,000 teachers, administrators and support staff.

A $2 million win could cover a year’s worth of salaries for 50 laid-off secretaries. The average salary of the 290 secretaries given pink slips this summer is $38,448, according to district pay data.

The district has not said what they plan to do with the damages.


Contact Vince Lattanzio at 610.668.5532, vince.lattanzio@nbcuni.com or follow @VinceLattanzio on Twitter.

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