BUFFALO, N.Y. (WIVB) - Canalside has a new contractor to finish a portion of the Memorial Auditorium block but the fired contractor is fighting back.
DiPizio Construction, of Cheektowaga, filed a lawsuit Friday in State Supreme Court claiming they should have never been fired from the project. A separate action claims the firing is void because the board of the Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation did not vote on it.
The lawsuit includes defamation claims against Empire State Development Corporation, Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and its leaders, Sam Hoyt, regional president of Empire State Development; Thomas Dee, president of Erie Canal Harbor Development Corporation and Mark E. Smith, the agency's construction director.
DiPizio claims that the leaders conspired to shift blame for delays in the project to them and away from the canal corporation. The company claims it was made a scapegoat for delays caused by agency employees and the family-owned company has suffered a loss of business and damage to its reputation.
DiPizio was fired on May 8 but stayed on the job until late July because they went to court seeking an injunction. The project which includes recreating historic canals, pedestrian bridges and towpaths was supposed to be finished by November, 2012. Another lawsuit over damages is ongoing in State Supreme Court.
Officials named in the lawsuit Friday declined to comment since it is ongoing litigation. The agency released a statement that it "is moving forward on the historically aligned canals project and looks forward to getting the project restarted and completed by next summer."
The statement continued, "You’ve seen our success at Canalside and soon that vision will be broadened at One Canalside and expanded to the East Canal and HARBORCenter, both of which are under construction and on schedule. The historically aligned canals project will compliment these exciting private sector investments. Together, these projects comprise a complete transformation of a magnificent new waterfront gateway to Buffalo. We appreciate the public’s patience and support as these multiple projects turn Western New York’s visions of a bright future into a shining new reality.”
The new company could be on the scene as soon as next week. Dee told News 4 Thursday that he expected the cost to remain within the original bid. "The original contract was 19 million and some dollars. So, we're holding to that, plus whatever change orders happen along the way, but in terms of added costs from a construction standpoint, we don't anticipate that."
Dee and Robert Gioia, ECHDC chair said they did not know the name of the company selected to finish the work. The company has been enlisted by Travelers, the insurance company that issued a bond, to secure completion of the project.
The DiPizio firm is asking the court to void its firing claiming that the ECHDC board, which voted to give them the contract in January, 2012, should have voted to fire them.
Robert Gioia, chairman of the ECHDC board told News 4 that the board did not have to vote on the DiPizio termination. "We were completely apprised of what was going on within the contract. We were in legal limits within the contract. It's not unusual for these types of situations to happen within organizations like this."
There is another Lake Effect Snow Warning in effect for Erie, Wyoming, Chautauqua and Cattaraugus Counties from Thursday through early Friday.
Lake Effect Snow Warnings return today with the chance for an additional foot for some areas.
A 26-year-old male employee of Ying's Wings and Things told police that Haibo Jiang, also known as Jimmy Ying, choked him until he passed out.
A Good Samaritan died Wednesday while trying to assist the driver of a tractor trailer who got stuck in the snow.
Viewers sent in photos from the snowfall around Western New York.
The Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office says a tractor trailer crashed on Route 39, in the Town of Eagle.