Sullivan West may get settlement
By Dan Hust
LAKE HUNTINGTON The Sullivan West Central School District has reached a settlement with the company that oversaw construction of the high school in Lake Huntington.
But district officials can’t talk about it at least not yet.
On June 25, the SW board adopted a confidential settlement for all claims with Turner Construction Company in a 6-1 vote.
Board member Noel van Swol was the lone dissenter (disagreeing with the confidential nature of the settlement), while board member Mary Scheutzow was absent. Former Board President Rich Sandler’s resignation (for reasons unrelated to the settlement) was accepted that evening, so he did not vote.
Few details were released on the settlement. A FOIL request by the Democrat did not result in the release of the settlement, as it has not yet been signed by Turner nor approved by the Federal District Court for Southern New York, according to Assistant Superintendent for Business Larry Lawrence.
“Legal counsel advises the district that release of the settlement agreement prior to it being finalized could jeopardize the settlement, and therefore is not required at this time,” Lawrence wrote in an e-mail to the Democrat yesterday. “The Sullivan West Central School District expects that the settlement will soon be finalized, and the district anticipates releasing the settlement within the statutory time limits of the Freedom of Information Law [FOIL].”
Superintendent Ken Hilton likewise could not comment, but SW’s attorney, Arthur Siegel with the firm of Bond, Schoeneck and King, confirmed yesterday that the settlement includes a payment to the district by Turner.
“I think the settlement is fair and reasonable under the circumstances,” Siegel remarked, noting that the payment is not an admission of guilt by either Turner or SW.
Siegel’s firm has been coordinating a series of lawsuits against Turner and two other companies involved in the $50 million creation of the high school and the renovations of the three pre-existing campuses in Jeffersonville, Callicoon and Narrowsburg.
The district had commenced litigation against Leeward, the sitework/construction firm, and Hillier, the architectural firm, in 2004 for alleged deficiencies with their work, completed the year before. Countersuits were launched by those companies, as well, charging the district was guilty of its own negligence.
Bond, Schoeneck and King replaced the original attorneys in 2007, and Turner the construction management firm which oversaw Hillier and Leeward’s work became part of the $10 million suit thereafter.
“Hillier’s main defense was that it was Turner’s fault for many of the problems,” explained Siegel.
Leeward settled with SW last year, which leaves Hillier as the last hurdle for the district. Siegel said he’s hopeful that either a trial or a settlement will occur with Hillier by the end of this year.
The attorney could not offer a specific sum the district is seeking from Hillier, nor could he specify the amount SW sought from Turner prior to the settlement, saying only that it was lumped in with an aggregate $10 million suit.
The settlement with Turner is expected to be signed and finalized by the court within the next two weeks.
“All parties are anxious to get this taken care of,” Siegel said.
A full report will be featured in the Democrat when the document is released.