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Former Charlevoix County Commissioner Richard Gillespie sues Beaver Island’s St. James Township

BY BENJAMIN J. GOHS, NEWS EDITOR

Richard Gillespie

Richard Gillespie

Former Charlevoix County Commissioner Richard Gillespie is suing St. James Township and board member James Wojan individually over a canceled roadwork contract he was awarded.

 

In the Thursday Sept. 17 filing, Gillespie claims township officials breached their contract with him, engaged in tortious interference, promissory estoppel, fraudulent misrepresentation, and more.

“Plaintiff (Gillespie) respectfully requests that this honorable court enter a judgment in its favor and against defendant board and award damages in an amount that is in excess of $25,000 and that is sufficient to compensate plaintiff for his actual, consequential and incidental losses sustained as a result of defendant board’s wrongful actions, including interest, costs and reasonable attorney fees,” it states in Gillespie’s court filing.

The one township official who responded to requests for comment declined to speak.

St. James Township Civil Counsel Bryan Graham said he would likely not be defending the township on this matter, and that its insurance company would likely be handling the issue.

According to court documents, Gillespie was the low bidder on the 1.1-mile Donegal Bay Road project on St. James Township on Beaver Island.
Gillespie’s company Gillespie Enterprises submitted a bid of $154,500 with the next bidder up having submitted a projected cost of $399,866.50.
According to Gillespie, the plan was to perform some of the repairs in two phases. He would complete $108,000 worth of work immediately and then work on $45,700 worth of the road project as funds became available to the financially struggling township.

St. James Township officials named in the suit include:
• Supervisor Bill Haggard
• Trustee Kitty McNamara
• Clerk Jean Wierenga
• Treasurer James L. Wojan
• Trustee Rick Speck

According to court documents, prior to August 2014, St. James Township Board of Trustees authorized the Charlevoix County Road Commission to request bids on a road construction project consisting of repairs, ditching, re-grading, graveling and otherwise generally improving 1.1 miles of Donegal Bay Road on Beaver Island stretching from Kings Highway to the Font Lake Road intersection.

The road commission’s engineer estimated the project to cost $56,300 for .61 miles of the road, and $74,965 for .49 miles of the road.
Then, in early December, bids were collected and presented to the township board.

In March of this year, Gillespie presented his phased approach to the board in order to give the township time to acquire the necessary funds to pay for the project.

According to court documents, on April 16, the board authorized Gillespie to perform the work necessary at a cost of $154,500.
“(A)t the April 16, 2015 meeting, defendant Wojan stated that, as township treasurer, he was uncertain whether the township’s road fund had the necessary fund balance to pay the plaintiff for the improvements that had been authorized,” it states in Gillespie’s filing…

“Wojan further indicated that he would need additional time to ascertain the balance of the road fund, to which the plaintiff offered to either: 1. prorate the improvements beginning at “the pavement” or in the alternative; 2. perform the work and accept payments over time.”

According to Gillespie’s filing, he believed he would have the opportunity to meet with a subcommittee of the board, Wojan, and representatives of the road commission.

“Plaintiff (Gillespie) made repeated calls to defendant Wojan and others connected with defendant board to be certain he did not miss the aforementioned meeting. Plaintiff was never called that April 16 afternoon by the defendants,” it states in the filing. “(Then) unbeknownst to plaintiff, defendant Wojan met with Mr. Patrick Harmon, manager of the Charlevoix County Road Commission, and Mr. James Vanek, CCRC’s principal engineer, at approximately 4 p.m. on the afternoon of April 16, 2015.”

According to Gillespie’s filing, during the alleged meeting among Wojan, Harmon, and Vanek, Wojan unilaterally changed the specifications to the project that had just been authorized by the board to the plaintiff, effectively canceling the plaintiff’s project.
“(T)he changes included, but are not limited to, sight and distance improvements to a section of Donegal Bay Road west of the section previously authorized by the board to be accomplished by the plaintiff (hereinafter the alternate project),” it states in Gillespie’s filing.

Gillespie learned of the cancellation several months later, in August of this year.

Gillespie alleges he has suffered a variety of damages, including but not limited to expectation damages, lost profits, costs and legal fees as a result of the defendants’ wrongful acts.

“Upon information and belief, defendant James Wojan arranged for a contract as between the board, the CCRC and himself wherein he used his brother, Ronald Wojan, as a shill bidder for the alternate project although Ronald Wojan has no relevant road repair or road maintenance experience,” it states in Gillespie’s filing.

 

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