After architecture firm Gould Evans won a $2.6 million contract bid last week to design the city's new Highland Recreation Complex, runner-up firm Wannemacher Jensen Architects didn't take the loss quietly.
Jason Jensen, one of the St. Petersburg firm's principals, vetted the material presented to city commissioners by Gould Evans during a meeting on April 27, and found what he says are several breaches of professional ethics.
Gould Evans, he says, took full credit for several building projects that it instead shared with other firms, a violation of the American Institute of Architects' professional practices code.
Jensen filed a complaint through his lawyer Monday, asking city officials to grant his firm the bid as the runnerup, or hold another competitive process for new bids.
"In 17 years, we've never filed a protest. We've never seen this level of misrepresentation," Jensen said.
Letters from architects whose work was used in Gould Evans' proposal but were not credited were also forwarded to the city, expressing their dismay for not being given proper citation in the contract process.
Duane A. Kell, a founding partner of Ankeny Kell Architects of Minneapolis, who worked with Kansas City, Mo.-based Gould Evans on several recreation center projects in Minnesota that were used in the presentation, expressed his disappointment.
"Our agreements with associated firms require accurate role identification and responsibility for each project when presented to the public," Kell wrote. "By not identifying AKA as the design architects, Gould Evans has violated our agreement and misrepresented to the public the true contributions of each firm."
When reached by phone, Kell said he feels miffed that a former business partner would neglect to give credit where credit is due.
"There are many cases where people don't give credit where credit should be given, and it's probably more prevalent than it should be. It's certainly unethical professionally," Kell said.
"It's not only offensive, but as I said in my letter, it conflicts with our agreement. Credit is how we exist. This is professionwide. We always acknowledge people's roles."
Kell said he compared the alleged misrepresentation with a form plagiarism, or at least resume padding.
According to the American Institute of Architects' code of ethics regarding professional recognition: "Members should build their professional reputation on the merits of their own service and performance and should recognize and give credit to others for the professional work they have performed."
One of six examples of information omission cited by Jensen's lawyer in the complaint is the University of South Florida Marshall Center design contract, which was awarded jointly to Gould Evans and another firm, Sasaki Architects.
In the information presented to Largo officials last month, Gould Evans did not mention its partnership with Sasaki.
Gould Evans representatives did not return calls for comment on Tuesday. Largo Assistant City Manager Henry Schubert said the firm was aware of the allegations.
Schubert said Tuesday that contract negotiations had yet to begin in earnest with Gould Evans, and city officials were looking into the matter.
"We will review the allegations made by Wannemacher Jensen, and investigate them to the degree we feel is appropriate," Schubert said.
He said city officials have begun a preliminary investigation, but declined to discuss their findings so far.
Dominick Tao can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 580-2951.