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Consultants sue city over unpaid bills

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Posted: Monday, October 11, 2004 10:00 pm

The City of Lodi is facing still more lawsuits related to its groundwater pollution case, this time from consultants seeking nearly $1 million in unpaid bills.

Both lawsuits were filed by an attorney who also represents the Odd Fellows Hall Association, which has been involved in the city's litigation for years.

In the suits filed Thursday in San Joaquin County court, Environmental Forensic Investigations Inc. and Magellan Environmental Inc. each seek restitution and damages.

The companies both allege that they were not paid for work done on the city's ongoing lawsuit concerning pollution in much of downtown Lodi. That work included technical sewer studies designed to prove at trial that the city was not responsible for spreading contamination, according to the Environmental Forensics suit. The city has since changed legal directions and is seeking to settle the case against more than 100 parties, including the News-Sentinel.

Each consulting company filed claims with the city earlier this year, and the Lodi City Council denied them both. A claim is a precursor to a lawsuit.

"The City of Lodi does not have an authorized contract with either one of them," City Attorney Stephen Schwabauer said Monday.

Though former City Attorney Randy Hays approved some of the work, he did not do so as "an officer of the city," Schwabauer said, adding that the City Council never hired either consulting firm.

In the claims filed with the city last spring, Magellan sought a little less than $41,000 for unpaid work. Environmental Forensics asked for nearly $900,000. Company owners could not be reached Monday, and the Pleasanton office phone number for Magellan has been disconnected.

Attorney David Isola, who filed both lawsuits, could not be reached for comment Monday. Courts and some law offices were closed Monday for the Columbus Day holiday.

Isola works with attorney Aaron Bowers, who represents the Lodi Odd Fellows Hall Association. The association, along with the News-Sentinel, was one of the original 15 parties the city sued in federal court in 2000. Though Bowers has handled the association's suit against the city, court records show that Isola is representing the Odd Fellows in a suit filed this year against Beckman Capital Corporation, another party involved in the city's original suit. The consultants' lawsuits are not the first to be filed. In late August, consulting firm Exponent Inc. also sued the city, though Schwabauer said he has yet to see a copy of the suit.

Contact reporter Layla Bohm at layla@lodinews.com.

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