Architectural firm enters in to consent judgment for alleged SUSD procurement misdeeds

The consent judgment include Hunt & Caraway stipulating to a “write-off” of the costs of their outstanding fee claim with Scottsdale Unified School District for the Hohokam Elementary School project. (file photo)

A consent judgment has been reached between the state of Arizona and Hunt & Caraway Architects for alleged violations stemming from a 2017 Scottsdale Unified School District construction procurement contract.

The Superior Court of Arizona consent judgment was issued on Tuesday, Feb. 5, according to Arizona Attorney General’s Office Spokesperson, Katie Connor.

Former Hunt & Caraway Principal, Brian Robichaux, remains in the civil case, Ms. Connor said.

The provisions of the judgment include Hunt & Caraway stipulating to a “write-off” of the costs of their outstanding fee claim with Scottsdale Unified School District for the Hohokam Elementary School project in the amount of $105,427.50.

On Dec. 20, 2018, SUSD and Hunt & Caraway reached a settlement wherein the district agreed to pay $350,815 to the Phoenix-based architect firm for services rendered on both Hopi and Pima Elementary School project, as well as a sports field project.

More specifically, the payments were $260,565 for the Hopi Elementary School Project; $85,000 for the Pima Elementary School Project; and $5,250 for the Sports Fields Project.

In return, the firm agreed to refund $16,485.63 to the district for the Central Kitchen Project. It also waived outstanding fees, totaling $105,427.50, on the Hohokam Elementary School Project.

Both the state and Hunt & Caraway have consented to entry of the judgment to resolve without trial any and all liability of allegations of wrongdoing raised by the state to avoid further expenditure of public funds in prosecuting and defending the case, the document states.

Additionally, the consent entry constitutes a full and complete release of civil liability by the state and the Attorney General of Hunt & Caraway, and nothing in the consent judgment shall be constructed to be a finding of liability or wrongdoing on the part of Hunt & Caraway with respect to the allegations in this matter, the document states.

The state of Arizona filed its complaint in this action on Feb. 22, 2018, acting on behalf of the general welfare and economy of the state. The complaint alleges violations by Hunt & Caraway Architects and other parties of the Arizona Procurement Code. Findings of the case include a 2017 investigation started by the Attorney General of the purchasing and contracting activities of Scottsdale Unified School District relating to the construction of school facilities.

Based on the investigation, the state concludes and alleges that Mr. Robichaux engaged in activities that violated the Arizona Procurement Code, among other things, including:

  • Attempting to improperly influence a member of the Construction Manager at-Risk committee; and
  • Acting as an architect on a CMAR committee when he was not a licensed architect.

The consent judgment states that Hunt & Caraway denies knowledge or any involvement in the alleged actions taken by Mr. Robichaux, and denies knowledge as to the state’s claim that Mr. Robichaux intentionally or knowingly served as a licensed architect on the selection committee for the CMAR procurement for the Hohokam Elementary School project.

Hunt & Caraway also denies any attempt at unlawfully influence the CMAR selection process or engaged in activity that violates the Arizona Procurement Code.

The consent judgment will be in full force and effective for 18 months unless otherwise indicated, the document states. In the event the Attorney General finds Hunt & Caraway has violated any of the consent judgment provisions and upon written noticed to the architectural firm, the term of the judgment may be extended up to one year per violation.

(File photo)

Hunt & Caraway’s recent history with SUSD

Hunt & Caraway was part of the controversy that rocked the district for more than a year, leading to an Arizona Attorney General investigation and the dismissal of former superintendent Denise Birdwell.

Mr. Robichaux had been leading the charge on the Hopi Elementary redesign. Documents show the firm was first hired by the district in April 2016 to work on a “facilities master plan” prior to the Scottsdale Unified School District Governing Board approving the bond ballot initiative.

District documents, Arizona Corporation Commission files and procurement records show that Hunt & Caraway didn’t go through a public SUSD procurement process, but rather were approved through a Phoenix-based national cooperative, 1 Government Procurement Alliance in 2016.

Court records show Mr. Robichaux was charged with felony theft in 1998, and a final judgment was signed on 2004, Independent archives show.

In State of Arizona v. Brian A. Robichaux, Arizona Superior Court records show Mr. Robichaux obtained $125,653 from the Arizona Department of Transportation for the purpose of building a home for Flora Mae Baptisto Phillips, but used the money for other, unauthorized purposes.

Mr. Robichaux plead guilty to count one, theft, a class 4 felony.

On Dec. 19, 2017, hired attorney, Susan Segal of Gust & Rosenfeld told SUSD leaders that she found no evidence of wrongdoing in SUSD procurement practices, while she did acknowledge wrongdoings and evidence of over-charging by Hunt & Caraway.

Northeast Valley News Editor Melissa Rosequist can be e-mailed at mrosequist@newszap.com or can be followed on Twitter at twitter.com/mrosequist_.

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