Hanten v. School Dist. of Riverview Gardens

Decision Date11 June 1998
Docket NumberNo. 4:97 CV 2194 SNL.,4:97 CV 2194 SNL.
Citation13 F.Supp.2d 971
PartiesDavid HANTEN, et al., Plaintiffs, v. The SCHOOL DISTRICT OF RIVERVIEW GARDENS, et al., Defendants.
CourtU.S. District Court — Eastern District of Missouri

David W. Harlan, Partner, Bradley G. Kafka, Rebecca E. Walsh, Gallop and Johnson, Ira M. Potter, Benson and Guest, Michael A. Kahn, Stinson and Mag, St. Louis, MO, for plaintiffs.

Bradley S. Hiles, Terry L. Potter, Associate, Randall S. Thompson, Blackwell Sanders Peper Martin LLP, St. Louis, MO, for defendants.


LIMBAUGH, District Judge.

This matter is before the Court on Defendants' Motion to Dismiss and/or for Summary Judgment (# 20). Also pending is Plaintiffs' Motion for Summary Judgment (# 49). The underlying cause of action arises out of the bid selection for the construction of a new elementary school to be built within the Riverview Gardens School District. Plaintiffs include a non-union mechanical subcontractor that was removed from the award-winning lowest bid, three of its employees, and its estimator who is suing in his capacity as a taxpayer and resident of the school district. Defendants include the Riverview Gardens School District, its superintendent, and the individual members of its Board of Education (the "School Board").


In November, 1996, defendant Riverview Gardens School District passed a bond issue that provided funding for several construction projects, including construction for the Moline Elementary School (the "Moline Project"). Due to an enlarged student enrollment and already overcrowded classrooms, the school district sought to have the Moline Project completed before the 1998 school year. In view of this time constraint, Dr. Chris Wright, Superintendent of the Riverview Gardens School District, immediately began to confer with members of the School Board about staffing the Moline Project with union labor. Based upon these informal conversations, Dr. Wright believed that a majority of the School Board favored staffing the Moline Project exclusively with union labor. Accordingly, she asked the school district's attorneys to draft language indicating a preference for union labor and had the project architects include this language in the bid specification.

On May 30, 1997, defendant Riverview Gardens School District issued its Project Manual governing bid submissions for the Moline Project. The Project Manual stated a preference, but did not require, that bidders be signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with an AFL-CIO union. The Project Manual reads, in pertinent part:

The Owner seeks to ensure a ready and adequate supply of highly trained and skilled craft persons, the establishment of reasonable working conditions for construction projects, the provision of negotiated commitments between employers and employees that are legally enforceable, and the assurance of labor stability and labor peace over the life of the project. Accordingly, bidders are encouraged to enter into a collective bargaining agreement for the Project with the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO, and its affiliated construction of the project. All bidders are required to certify in their bids whether they are already bound by such an agreement or are willing to enter into such an agreement for this Project.

The Project Manual also stated a preference, but did not require, that bidders use workers who have completed an apprenticeship program approved by the Department of Labor. Finally, the Project Manual required that bidders include a list of subcontractors, and that any changes to this list be approved by the School Board.

Five general contractors submitted bids. The low bidder was Wachter, Inc. ("Wachter"), with a base bid of $4,868,550.00. Consistent with the requirements of the Project Manual, Wachter's bid documents listed all of its subcontractors. Two of the subcontractors listed by Wachter did not have contracts with the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council: Plaintiff K.C. Heating Cooling & Sheet Metal, Inc. ("K.C.") and Crown Electrical Contracting, Inc. ("Crown"). In fact, three months prior to the submission of the Wachter bid, the employees of K.C. voted against representation by Sheet Metal Workers, Local 36 (a member of the St. Louis Building and Construction Trades Council) in a National Labor Relations Board election held on March 28, 1997.

The bids were opened at 10:00am on June 24, 1997. Upon learning that Wachter was the low bidder, its representative and president, Mark Kamp, allegedly called K.C.'s Estimator, Plaintiff David Hanten, and said, "We've got ourselves a job. Get your submittals together." Wachter had used K.C. as the mechanical subcontractor on several other projects and had worked very closely with K.C. in preparing its bid for the Moline Project.

After the bids were open, the project architect, Gale Hill, returned to his office to examine the bid documents. He noticed that Wachter had represented that 100% of its workforce had completed an apprenticeship program. Having worked with K.C. on other projects, Mr. Hill was aware that K.C. was not signatory to any AFL-CIO contract. Mistakenly believing that participation in an apprenticeship program was synonymous with union affiliation, he telephoned Mark Kamp to find out why Wachter had listed K.C. as its mechanical subcontractor. Mr. Kamp confirmed that K.C. was non-union and informed Mr. Hill that the electrical subcontractor, Crown, was also non-union. When questioned about their apprenticeship certification, Mr. Kamp explained that Wachter had interpreted the preference as applying only to the general contractor, not to each of the subcontractors. At Mr. Hill's request, Mr. Kamp provided the bids of the lowest union mechanical and electrical subcontractors: C & R Heating and Service Company, Inc. ("C & R") and Schneider Electric Co. ("Schneider"). Mr. Hill determined that substituting these two union subcontractors would increase Wachter's bid by $112,374.00.

At 5:30pm on June 24, 1997, Dr. Wright, Assistant Superintendent Charles Nicastro, and the project architects met to go over the bids on the Moline Project. Mr. Hill explained that Wachter's bid included two non-union subcontractors, and that substitution of union subcontractors would increase the bid by $112,374.00. Based upon her earlier conversations with the members of the School Board, Dr. Wright decided that all subcontractors should be signatory to a collective bargaining agreement with an AFL-CIO union and, therefore, that Wachter's bid should be changed to replace K.C. and Crown with C & R and Schneider. Accordingly, prior to the 7:30pm School Board meeting, Dr. Wright and the others re-typed the tabulation sheet to reflect the change in Wachter's bid.

At the 7:30pm School Board meeting on June 24, 1997, the members of the School Board were given a tabulation sheet listing the five bids, with the revised version of the Wachter bid. The School Board ultimately approved the Wachter bid at $5,321,674.00.1 At the time they approved the Wachter bid, none of the Board members were aware of Wachter's original bid or the replacement of the two non-union subcontractors. The $5,321,674.00 bid was still the lowest bid submitted.

On or before June 27, 1997, Dr. Wright informed the Board members that K.C. and Crown had been replaced by union subcontractors at a higher price and that K.C. was protesting the decision. Although the contract with Wachter had not yet been finalized, none of the School Board members took any action with respect to K.C.'s claim.


Plaintiffs bring their First Amended Complaint seeking legal and equitable relief under 42 U.S.C. § 1983 ("§ 1983"), Missouri's Open-Bidding Statute, Mo.Rev.Stat. § 177.086, and Missouri's Sunshine Law, Mo. Rev.Stat. § 610.010 et seq. They allege that Defendants violated the First and Fourteenth Amendments to the United States Constitution and the aforementioned Missouri statutes when they removed K.C. as the mechanical subcontractor from the award-winning lowest bid and replaced it with a more expensive union subcontractor.

Defendants argue for dismissal as to Counts I-IV of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint, pursuant to Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, for failure to state a claim upon which relief can be granted, and for summary judgment as to Count V. Alternatively, Defendants argue for summary judgment as to all counts of Plaintiffs' First Amended Complaint.2

When ruling on a motion to dismiss under Rule 12(b)(6) of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure, the Court assumes that all the facts as stated in the complaint are true. Conley v. Gibson, 355 U.S. 41, 45-46, 78 S.Ct. 99, 2 L.Ed.2d 80 (1957); Whisman v. Rinehart, 119 F.3d 1303, 1308 (8th Cir.1997). The allegations in the complaint must be liberally construed in the light most favorable to the plaintiff. Coleman v. Watt, 40 F.3d 255, 258 (8th Cir.1994). "[D]ismissal is inappropriate unless it appears beyond doubt that the plaintiff can prove no set of facts in support of his claim which would entitle him to relief." McCormack v. Citibank, N.A., 979 F.2d 643, 646 (8th Cir.1992) (internal quotations omitted); see also Morton v. Becker, 793 F.2d 185, 187 (8th Cir.1986). Thus, a motion to dismiss is likely to be granted "only in the unusual case in which a plaintiff includes allegations that show on the face of the complaint that there is some insuperable bar to relief." Fusco v. Xerox Corp., 676 F.2d 332, 334 (8th Cir.1982).

A district court may grant a motion for summary judgment, under Rule 56(c) of Federal Rules Civil Procedure, if all of the information before the court demonstrates that "there is no genuine issue as to material fact and the moving party is entitled to judgment as a matter of law." Poller v. Columbia Broadcasting System, Inc., 368 U.S. 464, 467, 82 S.Ct. 486, 7 L.Ed.2d 458 (1962)....

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  • Hanten v. School District of Riverview Gardens
    • United States
    • U.S. Court of Appeals — Eighth Circuit
    • April 20, 1999
    ...Counts I through IV of the first amended complaint, and granting summary judgment on Count V. See Hanten v. School District of Riverview Gardens, 13 F. Supp. 2d 971 (E.D. Mo. 1998). The defendants cross-appealed the denial of an earlier motion for summary judgment based only on damages. The......

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