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Mitchell Park Library contractor fires back at the city

Original post made on Jul 11, 2014

Flintco Pacific, the contractor blamed by Palo Alto officials for the long delayed and error-plagued construction of the Mitchell Park Library and Community Center, is firing back at the city and accusing officials of fraud and breach of contract.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Friday, July 11, 2014, 9:09 AM

Comments (49)

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Posted by Joe
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 9:50 am

> According to John Stump, vice president of Flintco, the company will file
> a writ next week asking the courts to force the city to share its
> public records.

What does this mean? Aren't public records, by definition, public? Or is the City holding out on Flintco?


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Posted by randy albin
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:27 am

well, palo alto just isn't what it once was. this man can get steamed about it all. just go ahead and have the newer library. quit crying and finish the project, please


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Posted by Memories
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:30 am

Does this mean, among other things, that the city rushed forward too fast with its plans, or does this mean Flintco is just doing a massive cya here? Maybe some of both?


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Posted by Clean Up City Hall!
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:43 am

Time to clean up and clean out Palo Alto City Hall! For years there has been a parade of scandals, ethical lapses, incompetence, arrogance, lack of transparency. New leadership is badly needed from the City Council level down to the department heads. Start with the Director of Public Works!


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Posted by Tom
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:46 am

to Memories -
>Does this mean, among other things, that the city rushed forward too fast with its plans, or does this mean Flintco is just doing a massive cya here? >Maybe some of both?

It only means that the opening volleys have been fired in the first battle. Prima facia, Flintco looks like they have a lot to answer for. Doubtless Flintco's lawyers have already found enough that they think they can mitigate whatever damage results, both monetarily and to their reputation.

One question in my mind stems from James Keene's comment about the company's "historically poor performance and failure to make adequate progress toward completion." If they had "historically poor performance", why in the world were they granted the contract in the first place? If Palo Alto had reason to suspect "poor performance", why wasn't there better monitoring in place to catch it in a more timely way?

There is doubtless enough egg to go on all the faces in the room.


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Posted by Observer
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

Who is responsible for the "plans and specifications"?
The city? the architects?
No problem. Lets hire the same people to manage remodeling the City Hall lobby!


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Posted by David Pepperdine
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:52 am

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:55 am

> "historically poor performance and failure to make adequate
> progress toward completion."

The City Manager probably means performance on this project. The City is supposed to have done due diligence on the contractors responding to its RFP for this project. If the City picked this contractor based on their historical performance, in part--then one can only wonder what happened here in Palo Alto?


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Posted by Sylvia
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:11 am

I don't think we can take the statements by Flintco's attorneys as the unvarnished truth. Having been involved in construction lawsuits in my line of work, I have had first-hand experience with the kind of whoppers that plaintiffs who hope to cash in routinely include in their legal paperwork. Yes, the construction of the Mitchell Park Library has been a sad fiasco. But I don't think we should pile on the city for all of it.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:31 am

> But I don't think we should pile on the city for all of it.

Why not?

If Flintco has not had this problem with its other clients, why do you think they chose to not conduct themselves in a professional way here in Palo Alto?

By the way--did you approve of how the City Manager conducted the stealth meetings with the Arrillaga people? Show we pile on the City for that, or give them a pass also?


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:01 pm

This city is becoming ridiculous and the managers want to screw it up more so they can travel to more conferences to promote their "zero-whatever" initiatives.

So any news on when the new contractor will finish the library?

And how's that 9 -- NINE -- year study of traffic light timing near Paly and Town & Country coming? Has it dawned on our genius planners that kids aren't in school during summer vacation so the light timing just maybe could be adjusted to reflect reality?


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 12:07 pm

We can see the City is incompetent in it's plannings just from the Libraries.

We have 2 out of 3 Libraries in our town our of commission ... for years ... and years. Why did the city start in on the Newell Library when they knew the Mitchell Park Library was not going to be done?

I do, at least partially blame the city, you cannot look at what has been done in Palo Alto and think our city planners know what they are doing or have any ability to manage or even find people who can manage.

$76 million! I can scarcely believe it. On the other hand it was FlintCo's job, their responsibility, they need to get the job done. I wonder if they just have more profitable uses for their people than to bother with the Palo Alto Library, and it was after all a hard job, so they just threw it?

Massive disinvestment in so many aspects of our country has led to many things needing to get done and a shortage - read big profits to be made, lack of people to do them, while at the same time we have big unemployment, inflation, a sagging economy and a people without vision or leadership. No, the invisible hand of the market does not work by itself or without control or sanity checks despite the number of constant claims that it does or insults to people who see through those claims.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 1:02 pm

Five Questions With Flintco:
Web Link

The article lists some of Flintco's current projects.


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Posted by Henry
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2014 at 1:12 pm

A family member (who I have great respect for) has worked for Flintco for about 6 years. He is a Project Manager and has been involved in projects across the country. He has nothing but good things to say about this company and loves working for them. When I mention this Palo Alto project, he stated that most of the problems were with the design and the change orders submitted by the city. He also said that I'm sure there were some issues that Flintco created, but look at all their other projects that have gone smoothly with very little problems. I guess we will wait and see what the courts decide on who is to blame.


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Posted by anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:16 pm

Now we taxpayers get to foot the substantial bill for city staff time and their legal staff time on this unproductive matter of arguing about a huge, botched project. I have inquired about accountability about the Mitchell Park Library previously and have never heard where the buck stops.
This is how government works, folks.
We need limited government with close oversight.
Thank you to all our local news media, we are fortunate in this community to have that going for us taxpayers.


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:25 pm

I'm certain that Flintco has a lot to answer for, but the fact that the two largest libraries in town have been closed at the same time for so long is just mind boggling. We associate this kind of incompetence and hubris with backward countries, not with one of the wealthiest and best educated places in the entire world. Imagine closing both Embarcadero Rd and Oregon Expwy simultaneity for a few years.


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Posted by Pretty Much What You Would Expect from Flinco's Mouthpiece
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:38 pm

No surprise here.

What would you have expected Flintco's mouthpiece attorney to say "Yep...we screwed up...here's a check for the damage".

Come on people. Nothing to see here.


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Posted by A resident that remembers
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

An excuse used by the city hall in the Executive Summary about the botched California Ave. project was that staff was too busy working on the plans for Mitchell Park library.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 2:49 pm

> Come on people. Nothing to see here.

And I've got a bridge that will connect Palo Alto and Stanford that I want to sell you.

Some people will buy anything, as long as it's sold by government and paid for with other people's money!


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Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:43 pm

Just legal foreplay before the damages are determined.


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Posted by Hmmmm
a resident of Evergreen Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 4:51 pm

I especially would like to know 1) what change orders were issued; 2) who issued them; 3) WHY were they issued (what was the source of the change - was it an internal, staff preference, or was it a result of various community members with close connections to the library, or influence in the library, pushing library or other staff to make changes?).

There was a lot of meddling by certain citizens on the way to approving the Bond, and it didn't stop there.


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Posted by who do you trust
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:21 pm

Just curious, if this is about the specifications, where is the architect in all this and wouldn't they be named in the suit? Doesn't the architect oversee construction? I feel like I'm not getting the whole story.

On the other hand, knowing how these things go IF this is the contractor's fault, there's no good choices. You have to cut bait and run, even if it costs more. Nightmare contractors who are always making change orders for every little thing, running up costs, not getting work done -- there's no amount of effort that will fix things and it is better to have someone else come in and fix mistakes.

Who knows whether that's the case here, I certainly have no cause to trust the City from any of my dealings with them in the past 2 years, including the City Attorney. I'd laugh if it wasn't my tax dollars paying for it.


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Posted by City Employee
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:33 pm

This was the first building the city has done from the ground up in over 30 years. All other buildings have been updated or remodel. Watching the city remodel or update these other buildings over the years, I'm not surprise about this.


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Posted by Fifi
a resident of another community
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:47 pm

The courts will hear about this, I promise you! The courts will hear about this disgrace!


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Posted by Terry
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2014 at 6:48 pm

Although I don't know anything about Flintco, I suspect they are not faultless.

[Portion removed.]


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Posted by Fire Keene
a resident of Professorville
on Jul 11, 2014 at 7:58 pm

[Post removed.]


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Posted by Colombo
a resident of South of Midtown
on Jul 11, 2014 at 9:33 pm

Did anyone else notice that the City attorney AND the VP of Flint Pacific appear to family members? John and Molly Stump?


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Posted by Silly
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jul 11, 2014 at 9:40 pm

In today's printed Weekly, there was a person-on-the-street question about what project people would most like to see completed. All but one said the Mitchell Park Library.

I was particularly intrigued by the comment made by some man who identified himself as a floor installer and he claimed the library building had been finished FOR MORE THAN A YEAR.

Anyone know if this is true? If so, can anyone get us an answer about why the opening STILL hasn't happened?

Thanks in advance.


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Posted by resident 1
a resident of Adobe-Meadows
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:12 pm

Assuming that this was a competitive bid here should have been a period when the potential contractors had a questions and answer period hat challenged and unknowns in the specs. Their proposal should have qualified what exactly their understanding was so that in the case of requirements creep it is scope to the original bid.


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Posted by Nope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 10:18 pm

I was inside the building in the fall (with a hard hat on) and it was nowhere near done. No. where. near.


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Posted by Michael Vilain
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:02 pm

Apparently, this is a common modus operandi for Flintco. They've done exactly this sort of thing with at least 2 other city's projects--be the lowest bidder then jack up the costs through change orders.

Of course the Flintco guy is going to say the plans were at fault. Whether the courts will be able to sort through the morass of finger pointing will just add to the cost of the project.


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Posted by Nope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:32 pm

@Michael Vilain:

Please provide links or verifiable information. Otherwise, you sound like the PA City manager trying to blame Flintco.


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Posted by Another Example
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 11, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Just Google Calaveras Jail and Flintco. Looks like another job that went long with a lot of poor workmanship.

Web Link


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 12:24 am

I live closer to the Newell Rd Library, but the Mitchell Park Library looks so cool. At first I thought it was going to be a monstrosity, but as it has taken shape and even has landscaping ... and up its walls too ... it looks pretty damn nice and I cannot wait for it to be finished.

I'd also like to see some responsibility from our side laid for this mess and some action take and people gone. I also think the City Coucil members who were on the council when this happened need to be gone. Somehow we have got to get control of this city back in the hands of competent residents who care about the city and have good judgement and can let the people of Palo Alto know what is happening.


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Posted by Nope
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2014 at 12:42 am

$60,000 penalty on a $59,000,000 project - that's a .1% overrun due to a subcontractor (concrete) making mistakes. Better than any construction project I've been involved in!

Keep in mind San Andreas has politics too, so Flintco is probably being blamed for more than their share on this one too.

In reality, I really don't care whether flintco under-performed or the City didn't have their plans in shape, what really irks me is this delay went on for TWO YEARS. There is no one to blame for that travesty other than the City Manager, James Keene. No matter who's FAULT it was, the City of PA Manager should have resolved the issue MUCH sooner.

Now the tax payers are going to pay for attorneys and City staff time to fight the lawsuit with Flintco, on top of the cost overruns that were incurred from the botched project.

In any private sector industry, multiple people would lose their jobs in a debacle like this, but in the City of PA, it's business as usual.

What an incredible embarrassment.


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Posted by Rude awakening
a resident of College Terrace
on Jul 12, 2014 at 5:13 am

Transparency! Is there anyone with some factual numbers showing how much tax $$$$ are being wasted over the course of these decisions/failures and their repercussions with law suits?


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 8:02 am

SteveU is a registered user.

I just want my Library DONE.

Change orders seem to be the way these low-bid builders make their real $

They know the 'prints' are wrong in places.
They know the client (PA) will do a few 'OMG that looks terrible/won't work'
and they know there will be 'surprises' at the building site


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Posted by Wilson
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2014 at 8:59 am

> I just want my Library DONE.

Sorry Steve .. but it's not your library. It is being paid for by thousands of property tax payers--most of whom will never set foot in this building.

You are invited to use the vast resources of the Internet, and to buy a few books --which will then be "yours" forever.

Sadly, the fellow doesn't seem to care much about how is actually paying the bills, or if the money is well spent. There are far too many people in this town who are willing to look the other way as long as their bread is buttered at the end of the day.


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Posted by Henry
a resident of another community
on Jul 12, 2014 at 9:45 am

To Another Example, you used a example of Flintco being penalized $60k on a $59 million project? I would love all my projects to go that smooth, especially a $59 million project!


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Posted by Emily renzel
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 12, 2014 at 10:08 am

To "Clean up City Hall", with a sweeping "throw the bums out" suggestion, get your facts straight first. Some Councilmembers and some Staff members have been trying to clean up messes made by others before them. There's no question that errors were made in the Mitchell Park Library effort - some due to wrong headed Council direction and some due to staff response. But our new Public Works Director was not responsible for the Library mess and it's irresponsible to target him. Similarly records of individual councilmembers should be reviewed - don't make a wholesale purge.


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Posted by Wondering?
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jul 12, 2014 at 2:21 pm

> Some Councilmembers and some Staff members have
> been trying to clean up messes made by others before them.

And what public records can we look to in order to verify this claim?

> But our new Public Works Director was not responsible for
> the Library mess and it's irresponsible to target him.

Mike Sartor/Public Works Director/2010--
Web Link

Mike Sartor has been on the job since late 2010—over three and a half years. Of course he is responsible for everything that has happened while he has been in charge.

> Similarly records of individual councilmembers should be
> reviewed - don't make a wholesale purge.

What records can we use to verify this claim? Can you actually provide some actual detail, and not thinly-masked opinion, to help us understand what you are saying?

A lot of insider gossip and opinion here—but not much usable fact!!


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Posted by boscoli
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jul 12, 2014 at 3:52 pm

Which council member has tried to clean up messes made by others? I may be wrong, but I never heard one council member admit that the council or staff members have made mistake in the Mitchell Park debacle.


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Posted by CrescentParkAnon.
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 13, 2014 at 10:10 am

Steve >> I just want my Library DONE.

Wilson > Sorry Steve .. but it's not your library.


It is his library as well as the town's and I believe the local towns too. Maybe you are not a natural native English speaker, but my does not necessarily mean owned by one person. Example - "My country, right or wrong." While you may not have the finer points of English grammar down like a native, you certainly seemed to have master the arrogance and snarkiness of many of those on the right.

I want MY two libraries done and open as well.


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Posted by SteveU
a resident of Barron Park
on Jul 13, 2014 at 1:16 pm

SteveU is a registered user.

My Library is my LOCAL library, not 'Main' (my normal alternate, but it is closed also) or any other branch.
Just like you can visit on 'My Street' or buy 'My Brand'.

Maybe if City Hall people made decisions like they paid for/'owned' something, we would not get so much 'excess' or waste.


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Posted by Bob
a resident of Community Center
on Jul 13, 2014 at 3:32 pm

Anybody remember ENRON???? That's when our Utility Department really started going downhill. And currently it's o a skid. A lot of the money to pay for this city hall re-do is coming from Utility Funds. We-the-people pay those funds. We've been had....big time.


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Posted by Mike
a resident of Mountain View
on Jul 13, 2014 at 10:55 pm

PA can Just do the usual "extortion" of Stanford for more millions. No problem.


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Posted by true Troll
a resident of Midtown
on Jul 14, 2014 at 12:17 am

I am long time Palo alto resident, and I see lots of Trolls here against the city of Palo Alto. The only mistake our city did was to choose the lowest bid from this Company from Texas/Oklahoma. Please see what San Francisco does: never choose the lower bid!


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Posted by Peninsula Commuter
a resident of another community
on Jul 14, 2014 at 10:48 am

Bob, I see the point you are making and I suspect Utilities staff were "volunteered" to pay for the City Hall Lobby re-do. I do not recall hearing comments from Utility customers that the lobby facilities were inadequate.


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Posted by The Shadow knows....
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jul 16, 2014 at 12:42 pm

@ Emily Renzel -

You say that "our new Public Works Director was not responsible for the Library mess, and it's irresponsible to target him".

You really need to get your facts straight instead of attempting to cast aspersions elsewhere.

The Current PW Director was the Assistant Director in charge of the Engineering Division with direct oversight responsibility for the Library project during it's entire planning, design, bidding and now construction process. He was then promoted to the Director's position by the current City Manager after the project was under construction.

Further, he was a direct supervisor of the Senior Engineer who had day to day management responsibility for the project design. he subsequently promoted that individual to a Deputy Director position.

"Not responsible"? Your definition escapes me........


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