Judge Dismisses I-15 Lawsuit

Judge Dismisses I-15 Lawsuit

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal judge has dismissed a lawsuit over the Interstate 15 reconstruction work, holding that its claims were not substantial or specific enough, and that evidence was not provided to back up the allegations.

However, U.S. District Judge Paul Cassell ruled Tuesday that the suit may be amended and refiled.

Steven K. Maxfield, president of Mighty Max Truck Parts Inc., and independent contractor John Peterson had alleged widespread problems with the I-15 reconstruction projects. Among other things, the suit alleged at one lead contractor, Ralph Smith Co., had overcharged nearly $5 million and pocketed the difference.

The case originally was filed in 1999 during the four-year, $1.59 billion project but was sealed until Cassell made it public in October 2002. The men sued on behalf of themselves and the federal government, meaning the government had an opportunity to join the case if it chose to do so. The U.S. Attorney's Office declined to join the suit, and the two men pursued it on their own.

Maxfield said Wednesday that he is unsure whether he will pursue the matter further.

Doug Smith, vice president of Ralph Smith Co., said Wednesday that it was pleasing that "the judge sees things the same way we do. I didn't know what else to do but sit and watch because I had done nothing wrong and it is very frustrating to have your company dragged through the mud."

Maxfield said he was prevented by the U.S. Justice Department from revealing certain information. He said the FBI has conducted a criminal investigation into his allegations but is keeping its inquiry a secret.

"There's just a whole bunch more to this," Maxfield said. "There was bribery and some fraud involved and the FBI and the Justice Department gathered that information. ... The FBI did some covert undercover work we were involved in, then denied it."

Cassell urged Maxfield to obtain any information he feels is necessary through the Government Records Access and Management Act and submit it to the court in the form of a final amended complaint.

The suit alleges that Ralph Smith Co. failed to properly weigh trucks carrying fill material, instead relying on verbal reports from truck drivers to dispatchers, and that resulted in $4.8 million in overpayments.

It also alleged that Smith dispatchers only dispatched trucks when the drivers were willing to pay a $3 to $5 fee, but Cassell said, "The complaint is devoid of any individual names, locations or time frames regarding these allegations."

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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