Charlton loses lawsuit over town hall, owes original contractor nearly $900,000
CHARLTON A state Supreme Court jury has found that the town of Charlton owes nearly $900,000 in damages to the contractor it originally hired to build its town hall for firing the company when problems developed.
The six-member jury reached an $894,595 verdict in favor of Schmidt and Schmidt Construction of West Charlton late Nov. 26, following a two-week wrongful-termination trial in Ballston Spa before state Supreme Court Judge Ann Crowell.
The Town Board will consider whether to appeal the verdict, said Town Supervisor Alan R. Grattidge.
“I’m certainly disappointed,” he said. “The Town Board will meet with our legal team and assess the implications. We will review the outcome and determine whether an appeal is in order.”
The cost of any damages paid would be borne by town taxpayers, Grattidge said.
“It was a complicated contract case,” he said.
Laurence Fox of Clifton Park, the attorney representing Schmidt and Schmidt, could not be reached for comment Monday.
After the town fired Schmidt and Schmidt in September 2007, charging it hadn’t made sufficient progress on construction, the company sued for wrongful termination and $1.1 million in damages. The town, in response, filed a counter-claim against the company seeking $1.5 million in compensation for cost overruns and delays.
After a day of deliberation, the jury found unanimously that Schmidt and Schmidt was wrongly terminated; that it performed additional work for which it should be paid; and that it did not receive timely payments from the town. The total damages awarded under the three findings were $894,595.
During the trial, Walter Schmidt Jr., an owner of Schmidt and Schmidt, testified for four days. The town’s witnesses included town hall architect J. Paul Vosburgh of Albany, Grattidge, and an outside party brought in to evaluate the dispute in 2007, before Schmidt and Schmidt was fired.
The jury also found that Schmidt and Schmidt breached its contract with the town, but found no damages should be awarded to the town.
Schmidt and Schmidt contended that bidding documents were “erroneous and misleading,” that issues it pointed out to the town and Vosburgh weren’t resolved, and that its termination was therefore “wrongful and in breach of contract.”
Schmidt and Schmidt had been paid $686,000 through the time it was fired. Its original construction contract was for $2.5 million.
Ground was broken for the town hall in 2006, with the expectation of completion a year later. The building wasn’t finished until the summer of 2009, and the final cost was $4 million, about $800,000 over budget.
After Schmidt and Schmidt was terminated, the town hired an emergency contractor to enclose the building. Later, another contractor hired by Schmidt and Schmidt’s bond insurance company came in and completed the building.
The 9,500-square-foot, two-story Colonial Georgian-style town hall replaced a much smaller town building down the road.
Set on a bluff, it is now one of the dominant buildings in the Charlton hamlet.