The public works company Operations Management International has dropped its $2 million lawsuit against Richmond Hill, a mere two months after it was filed.
The company’s request to drop its suit was accepted Tuesday by the Richmond Hill City Council during its regular meeting at City Hall after a short executive session and an even shorter recommendation from city attorney Ray Smith.
He reminded the council of the suit before telling them OMI had approached him asking for “an unprejudicial dismissal of all claims” against the city, stopping any further legal action.
“I seek your permission to sign that and it is recommended by me,” Smith said, holding up a document.
A moment later, the council voted unanimously to let Smith sign the dismissal, putting a low-key ending to a legal tussle that began late last year.
“Anytime we can get a lawsuit dropped, I’m happy,” Mayor Harold Fowler said. “We’ve always contended we were within our rights. We’re happy they’re going their way and we can go ours.”
Attempts to reach OMI representatives were unsuccessful.
Tuesday’s dismissal brings a formal end to a 13-year relationship between Richmond Hill and the company, which ran the city’s utilities from 2000-2013.
But the beginning of the end became public in October, when the council voted to hire Braddy Enterprises Public Works Division LLC for $2.6 million to run the city’s public works on an interim basis beginning in January.
At the time, City Manager Chris Lovell said the move would save taxpayers about $300,000 — a figure based on a contract with OMI said to be worth about $3 million.
OMI Regional Vice President Gary Wood disputed those numbers at the city’s Nov. 19 meeting and offered to drop the company’s asking price to $2.6 million, but city officials refused to backtrack.
About three weeks later on Dec. 4, OMI filed suit in Bryan County Superior Court, alleging it was in the middle of a five-year agreement with Richmond Hill when the city decided to hire Braddy Enterprises.
OMI also claimed the city’s decision would cost the company more than $2 million and its 24 workers in Richmond Hill would have to be either relocated or fired.
The company also claimed the city’s decision harmed its reputation, as OMI handles public works for some 200 communities, and that Richmond Hill officials were “stubbornly litigious.”
Additionally, the company claimed the city violated public bidding laws and Georgia’s Open Meetings Act. OMI tried to get a restraining order against the city to keep its contract from expiring on Dec. 31, but that effort failed.
Richmond Hill official have said the city intends to bring the management of its utilities “in house,” as it builds a new state-of-the-art wastewater treatment plant that will cost an estimated $25-$28 million — the largest single expenditure in the city’s history.