... "We think this contract is illegal," said San Diego attorney Kevin Carlin, who filed the suit and who is involved in a similar legal battle with a San Diego County district.
The lawsuit not only seeks to stop Fresno Unified from paying more money to Harris for building the middle school, it also asks that Harris repay any money already paid to it by the district for the project.
Fresno Unified awarded the middle school construction contract not by the traditional practice of choosing the lowest bid, but instead by a method called lease/leaseback.
Under lease/leaseback, a district leases land to a developer for a nominal amount, typically $1 a year. A school is then built, and the district pays the developer for it over an extended period of time. ...
... Davis' suit -- which he filed as an individual Fresno Unified taxpayer and not as president of Davis. Moreno -- alleges that the district violated state law because the middle school project was not competitively bid.
In addition, the suit says district officials did not comply with conflict of interest requirements under state law.
Those requirements came into play, Carlin said, because of donations made by Harris Construction and its owner, Richard Spencer, to Measure Q, Fresno Unified's $280 million bond measure that passed in 2010.
Harris Construction has received most of Fresno Unified's construction business since the district started using lease/leaseback in May 2011. Since then, Harris has been awarded seven contracts totaling about $78 million. ...