Mortenson Settles Convention Center Bid-Rigging For $650K Plus Help For Coronavirus Construction

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Jared Polis Colorado Convention Center COVIS-19 Pop Up Treatment
Hart Van Denburg/CPR News
At Denver’s Colorado Convention Center on Friday, April 10, 2020, where the state is working with the Army Corps of Engineers to build a 2,000-bed pop-up treatment facility to accommodate an expected surge in COVID-19 cases.

Updated 1:15 p.m.

Construction and developer giant Mortenson Company agreed to pay $650,000 to state officials and to contribute in-kind construction services to help the COVID-19 pandemic as a result of a settlement agreement with the state attorney general’s office.

The agreement, announced Monday, was reached after a long criminal probe looking into whether Mortenson company officials violated Colorado’s Antitrust Act when it competed to become the general contractor of the Colorado Convention Center expansion.

That $233 million expansion has been plagued for more than a year with investigations into a tainted bidding process. Denver city officials allege Trammel Crow, the company managing the project, was unfairly advantaging Mortenson as it was competing for contracts.

Investigations have been ongoing in the Denver city attorney’s office, the Denver district attorney’s office and the state attorney general.

State Attorney General Phil Weiser told CPR News on Monday that he uncovered strong evidence that Mortenson and the city of Denver’s program manager, Trammel Crow, “exchanged non-public and confidential information” about the project that was unfairly not shared with other bidders.

“This egregious behavior caused Denver officials to cancel the procurement process and delay the project at significant cost to the city and to the residents of Colorado,” Weiser said, in a release. “Today’s announcement shows we will hold accountable those companies and individuals that undermine the competitive bidding process when they bid for public construction projects and put millions of taxpayer dollars at risk.”

Mortenson CEO Dan Johnson released a statement that his company did not “meet our own expectations.”

“Striving to do the right thing means learning from times when we may fall short. We are committed to the assurances outlined in our agreement and have made several changes to our compliance and training programs as a result,” he said. “We will also share the lessons we’ve learned with others in our industry.”

The state’s investigation into Trammel Crow is ongoing, Weiser said, adding that he hoped there would be an agreement with them too.

“If that’s not able to happen, we will go ahead and litigate,” he told Colorado Matters. “If you’re going to engage in untoward and unlawful practices .. we will hold you accountable.”

Weiser’s office called the Mortenson settlement agreement a “silver lining” on the frontlines to battle COVID-19. The company and Weiser’s office agreed to pay no less than $650,000 to a yet-to-be-determined construction project that will help with the COVID-19 crisis, state officials said. 

That project could go towards a make-shift treatment center or upgrades at a hospital or something else, state officials said.

Separately, there is a tentative plan to shift the state Convention Center into a treatment facility if necessary.

The settlement with Weiser’s office also requires Mortensen officials to make a presentation on ethics and antitrust compliance at a four-year college or university in Colorado as part of an ethics and corporate social responsibility class. 

It also requires the company to make an effort to work with Women and Minority-Owned businesses in Colorado. Top company officers also have to undergo ethics training.

Editor's Note: The story and headline have been updated after the state attorney general's office offered more details and clarified Phil Weiser's statements on the settlement. A statement from Mortenson has also been added.