The firm that handled the exterior restoration of the Hinchliffe Stadium has filed a lawsuit against the city claiming breach of contract, negligence, and fraud.
Wu & Associates of Mount Laurel filed the suit late last month. The firm had received a $1.5 million contract in 2017 to repair the main façade of the building on the Liberty Street side. The lawsuit alleges the city refused to make payment for work that was performed by the company.
The lawsuit outlines a dispute that began in Aug. 2019 and culminated in the alleged non-payment in Jan. 2020. Municipal officials refused to pay a months old invoice without explanation on Jan. 6, 2020, according to the suit.
It’s not clear how much the city owed the firm.
Economic development director Michael Powell did not respond to a call for comment on Wednesday.
On Feb. 15, 2019, officials from the city and the firm met at the fourth floor conference room of 125 Ellison Street to discuss closing out the contract. At the meeting it was determined the stadium signs were too structurally unsound to be repaired, the lawsuit states.
“Paterson indicated their consent that Wu would bill out and Paterson would pay out the contract as per previous change orders for descoped work, meaning that Wu and its affected subcontractors would credit the City of Paterson back costs for labor and material not provided under the base contract but retain overhead and profit on these line items,” reads the lawsuit.
Wu & Associates submitted an invoice to the city on Aug. 6, 2019. Under the contract the city had 20 days to question the invoice. No questions were raised, and the invoice was presumed to be approved on Aug. 26, 2019. Without receiving payment from the city, Wu & Associates made final payments to its subcontractor for Hinchliffe Stadium work, according to the lawsuit. The lawsuit states the city had “a documented history of not acting in a timely manner,” but approved similar invoices in the past.
On Jan. 6, 2020, the city rejected the old voice without “intelligible explanation,” according to the lawsuit. Since then, “various individuals purporting to represent the interests” of the city, including a municipal attorney, allegedly blamed schedules and workloads for not responding to the firm, according to the lawsuit.
The lawsuit also accuses the city of committing fraud. It alleges the city made “false representations” to the firm to “induce” it to “perform certain acts.”
Peter N. Milligan, attorney for Wu & Associates, declined to comment on Wednesday. He would not provide details of the alleged fraud.
The lawsuit is seeking an unspecified amount in damages.
Wu & Associates received the contract under mayor Jose “Joey” Torres’ administration. The firm began restoring the exterior of the stadium in Sept. 2017. Under Torres, the city collected grant funds and appropriated municipal dollars to restore the historic Hinchliffe Stadium.
Mayor Andre Sayegh, who took office on Jul. 1, 2018, opted for a different strategy to restore the ballfield. He controversially earmarked $50 million in tax credits the state assigned to Paterson for the project.
Sayegh did not respond to a call for comment for this story.
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