Officials are restarting bidding for a $223 million expansion to the Colorado Convention Center in Denver after discovering allegedly improper communications between Golden Valley-based Mortenson, a finalist for the project, and the company overseeing bidding. (Submitted image: Colorado Convention Center)

A major project in Denver, Colorado, has been delayed over alleged bidding improprieties by several companies, including Golden Valley-based Mortenson.

The Minnesota construction giant was one of three finalists to build a $223 million expansion to the Colorado Convention Center. On Dec. 11, the city of Denver halted the selection process and fired its program management services contractor, Dallas-based Trammell Crow Co., due to what Denver Mayor Michael Hancock called “a significant breach of the public trust and a willful violation of a competitive bidding process.”

Trammell Crow isn’t the only company in the city’s crosshairs. In a Dec. 21 letter, Denver Executive Director of Public Works Eulois Cleckley informed Mortenson he is suspending the company’s prequalification to bid on city projects pending a possible revocation, citing a series of emails between Mortenson and Trammell Crow officials.

The emails in question appear to show Trammell Crow officials providing sensitive procurement documents to Mortenson officials, and exchanging ideas for a series of “live scenario” questions to be asked during a final interview. Mortenson also asks Trammell Crow to pressure city officials to visit another Mortenson project in the area, and to add language to the city’s request for qualifications that “would shut down Turner [another bidder],” according to emails provided by the city.

“These communications demonstrate that Mortenson’s actions and inactions evidence a lack of integrity in the process of the city’s procurement” for the project, Cleckley wrote in his letter.

Hancock has asked the Denver district attorney to investigate the “potentially improper collusion” between Trammell Crow and Mortenson. The city plans to restart the selection process with a new contractor, according to Denver-based 9NEWS.

In an email statement, Mortenson said it is in contact with the Denver district attorney and has promised not to speak publicly on the matter while the investigation is ongoing.

“We take this matter very seriously,” Mortenson Senior Vice President Maja Rosenquist said in the statement. “We have conducted a thorough internal investigation, and commit to cooperating with the city to the greatest extent possible.”

The city originally discovered the issue when a city employee noticed a room had been added to the plans that could have increased the cost by $4 million to $6 million, the Denver Post reported Thursday. The subsequent investigation turned up the emails sharing confidential bidding information.

Mortenson does not have any current or near-term projects that will be affected by the suspension of its prequalification status, according to Wendy Aiello, a Denver-based public relations executive representing Mortenson.

Mortenson, which has offices across the country, has built a number of large projects in the Denver area, including the Denver International Airport Hotel and Transit Center and the Gaylord Rockies Resort and Convention Center in Aurora.

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