Attorneys representing the construction company suing Escambia County for not paying the final $3.4 million to build the new county jail are asking a judge to sanction the county for ignoring discovery and deposition requests in the ongoing lawsuit.
The requests go as far as asking the county to explain why an assistant county administrator should not be held in contempt of court for allegedly ignoring a subpoena.
Whitesell-Green/Caddell sued the county in January, alleging the county still owes the company $3.4 million for the construction of the $132 million jail building completed in 2021.
The county had denied the allegation and argued the construction company was 224 days late in finishing the project, and under the contract, it can withhold the payment.
Whitesell-Green/Caddell, a joint company between Whitesell-Green and Caddell Construction formed to build the jail, argues any delays in the project were excusable under the contract because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Earlier this month, Whitesell-Green filed a motion arguing the county had ignored all discovery requests in the lawsuit, and then it escalated that request when it filed a motion on Nov. 18 asking the judge in the case to force the county to explain why Assistant County Administrator Debbie Bowers should not be held in contempt of court.
The construction company's attorneys said in the filing they attempted to set up a deposition with Bowers for more than a month that went ignored by the county. The attorneys issued a subpoena for Bowers to appear for a deposition on Nov. 4, and the county did not challenge the subpoena.
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"Ms. Bowers failed to comply with the duly noticed and served a subpoena and has not presented any excuse for the non-appearance, objected to the subpoena, or filed any papers requesting relief from the subpoena," Whitesell-Green's attorney Elysha Luken wrote.
Escambia County spokesperson Andie Gibson told the News Journal that the deposition was scheduled without coordination from the county.
"The attorneys for Whitesell, Green/Caddell scheduled depositions without coordinating the dates and times with our attorneys or with Debbie Bowers," Gibson said. "They are being rescheduled for February at coordinated dates and times."
Attorneys for Whitesell-Green did not respond to the News Journal's request for comment.
The missed deposition came just a day after Whitesell-Green filed a motion with the court seeking sanctions against Escambia County for ignoring the request for discovery and the request to schedule depositions in the case.
The county had sought a stay to discovery in the lawsuit, but no stay was ever granted.
"Defendant's (Escambia County) requested stay of discovery has been denied by the court and defendant has not moved for a protective order," Luken wrote in a Nov. 3 filing. "Instead, defendant has ignored requests and has seen itself as the sole judge of whether it will respond to discovery."
The lawsuit has been going on for the last year and has grown more complex, with the county filing a third-party complaint against DLR Group, the company the county hired to manage the selection process and construction of the jail.
While the county denies the allegations in Whitesell-Green's original complaint, it argues that if it is found liable in the case, DLR Group would be to blame. The county alleges DLR Group did not hold up its end of the contract in managing the construction of the jail.
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While the case was filed in Escambia County, Okaloosa Circuit Court Judge John Brown is overseeing the case after Escambia County judiciary was recused in the case.
Brown has set a hearing in the case for Jan. 13 on Whitesell-Green's motion to seek sanctions against the county.
Brown has ordered the parties to try to mediate their dispute while the lawsuit continues with a mediation deadline of March 2, according to court documents.
A preliminary trial date of June 12 has been scheduled.
This article originally appeared on Pensacola News Journal: Escambia County could face sanctions in Whiesell-Green-Caddell lawsuit