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Hillside Landscape Construction, Inc., An Idaho Coeur D'alene, Corporation v. City of Lewiston

November 2, 2011

HILLSIDE LANDSCAPE CONSTRUCTION, INC., AN IDAHO COEUR D'ALENE, CORPORATION,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT-CROSS RESPONDENT,
v.
CITY OF LEWISTON, AN IDAHO STEPHEN W. KENYON, CLERK MUNICIPAL CORPORATION, DEFENDANT-RESPONDENT-CROSS APPELLANT.



Appeal from the District Court of the Second Judicial District of the State of Idaho, in and for Nez Perce County. The Hon. Jeff Brudie, District Judge.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Eismann, Justice.

2011 Opinion No. 104

The judgment of the district court is vacated.

This is an appeal from a judgment dismissing a challenge to a city's action in rejecting a bid for a public works project on the ground that the low bidder lacked sufficient experience for the project. Because the city chose to follow the Category A procedures set forth in Idaho Code section 67-2805(3) rather than the Category B procedures, the district court erred in holding that it could reject the bid on that ground. We therefore vacate the judgment of the district court and remand this case for further proceedings that are consistent with this opinion.

I. Factual Background

In 2009, the City of Lewiston (City) advertised for bids to replace the irrigation system at the City golf course. The advertisement included the following:

In order to be considered a Qualified Bidder, the bidder must hold a current Idaho Public Works Contractor's License in golf course construction and previously completed the following work:

The Contractor and his Irrigation Foreman must have completed a minimum of eighteen (18) holes (1-18 hole or 2-9 hole) golf course project(s) in the past three (3) years for which he/she was responsible for all aspects of construction of a new irrigation system installed on an existing golf course. For this work, the Contractor and his Irrigation Foreman must have installed the system(s) with all HDPE pipe.

Hillside Landscape Construction, Inc. (Hillside) desired to bid on the project, but prior to doing so it sent a letter dated October 14, 2009, to the City stating that if City insists upon having qualifications other than a current Idaho public works license to bid on the project, City must follow the Category B procedures set forth in Idaho Code section 67-2805(3)(b) and pre-qualify the bidders. Hillside asked that the qualification of prior experience be removed. By letter dated October 23, 2009, City's attorney denied the request, stating that City's specifications and bidding process comply with state law.

Hillside and four others submitted bids for the project. By letter dated October 26, 2009, City notified the bidders: "Hillside Landscape Construction submitted the lowest bid, $868,380,

but was found to be non-compliant in that the company lacked the required experience specified within the bid documents. Landscapes Unlimited was the next lowest bidder. The bid was deemed compliant." City awarded the contract to Landscapes Unlimited. Hillside again objected, but City denied the objection.

On November 30, 2009, Hillside filed a complaint seeking injunctive relief, declaratory relief, and damages. On the same date, it also filed a motion for a temporary restraining order. The district court issued the temporary restraining order on December 1, 2009. An evidentiary hearing on Hillside's request for a preliminary injunction was held on December 21, 2009. The district court held that City complied with the bidding statutes, and it vacated the temporary restraining order and denied the motion for an injunction. On January 27, 2010, it entered a judgment dismissing Hillside's complaint.

On February 4, 2010, City filed a motion seeking an award of attorney fees and costs pursuant to Idaho Code section 12-117 and Rule 65(c) of the Idaho Rules of Civil Procedure. On February 16, 2010, Hillside filed a motion to disallow costs. The district court denied the request for attorney fees under section 12-117 because in challenging the bidding process Hillside did not act without a reasonable basis in law, due to the ambiguity of the applicable statutes. It denied the request for attorney fees under Rule 65(c) on the ground that City failed to itemize the legal services provided in connection with the preliminary injunction and those related to other aspects of the litigation. The court also denied City's request for discretionary costs and awarded it ...


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