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Delay denied in suit against contractors

A motion for continuance was denied Thursday in San Diego Superior Court in a suit filed against construction companies awarded contracts related to the South Bay-area schools corruption trials.

The Sweetwater Union High School District filed a motion in late May for a summary judgment against Gilbane Building Co. and the Seville Construction Group for the return of $26 million paid to the companies for the contracts, which were voted on by the district's governing board after some had received gifts from the contractors.

The high school district did not initiate the litigation, but had recently decided to enter the litigation as a real party in interest. The original complaint was filed in January 2012 by San Diegans for Open Government.

Defendants in the criminal trials against the school officials, which swept across multiple school districts, have agreed to many plea agreements. Most pleaded guilty to lesser charges.

John Moot, legal counsel for SUHSD, said the plea agreements are sufficient to establish a breach of Government Code 1090, which says that when government officials have voted on a contract in which they have a financial interest, the contract is void.

Lawyers representing Gilbane Construction had filed an application Tuesday to continue the hearing on the motions for summary judgment, which had been scheduled for Aug. 8, arguing that because of a discovery stay that has been in place since Nov. 2013 and ongoing criminal trials against the school officials, Gilbane had not conducted any recent discovery.

Attorney Gary Brucker of McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP said Tuesday in the downtown San Diego court of Judge Eddie Sturgeon that his client, Gilbane, had the right to depose those who had pleaded to crimes but not admitted to participating in bribery.

Moot, of Schwartz Semerdjian Ballard & Cauley LLP, argued that nothing in Government Code 1090 requires bribery to establish a breach of the code, just the appearance or possibility of it. He called it a "prophylactic" statute, and argued that neither Gilbane’s lawyers nor Seville Construction, which joined Gilbane in the motion, would find anything new through deposition.

Sturgeon ruled in favor of the school district, leaving the hearing on its summary judgment motion as scheduled for Aug. 8.

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