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Crossing Your t's and Dotting Your i's: Perfecting Appeals of Public Contract Decisions in Virginia

Be aware that the procedural requirements of Virginia Code Section 15.2-1246 [pdf] apply to appeals denying claims arising under contracts covered by the Virginia Public Procurement Act, according to the recent case, Viking Enterprise, Inc. v. County of Chesterfield, Record No. 080215 (Jan. 16, 2009) [pdf].

In Viking Enterprise, Viking entered into a written contract with Chesterfield County to construct a fire station. The County insisted that Viking had to remove and replace part of a concrete floor. Although Viking believed the floor could be repaired without removing and re-pouring the concrete, it complied with the County’s request and submitted a claim for $86,531 for additional work. The County’s board of supervisors denied the claim on July 25, 2005, and the clerk of the County’s board of supervisors gave Viking written notice of that denial in a letter dated August 2, 2005.

Relying on Virginia Code Section 2.2-4363(E) [pdf] and 2.2-4364(E) [pdf], Viking believed that it merely needed to file suit in Circuit Court within six months of the board of supervisor’s final decision to perfect its appeal. It filed a complaint in Chesterfield County Circuit Court on January 27, 2006. It later non-suited its action and re-filed its complaint on February 13, 2007.

The County argued that Viking failed to comply with Section 15.2-1246, which would require Viking to appeal within thirty days from the date of the board of supervisors’ decision (if Viking had been present at the July 25, 2005 meeting) or within thirty days of service of the clerk’s letter (had Viking not been present at the meeting), and that Viking failed to serve written notice on the clerk and to execute a bond.

The Circuit Court and the Virginia Supreme Court agreed with the County. Because Viking conceded it had not appealed within thirty days of the decision or service of the clerk’s letter, had not served notice of the appeal on the clerk and had not executed a bond, Viking’s appeal was dismissed because it did not comply with Section 15.2-1246.

The Viking Enterprise opinion concludes with the following recap of requirements to perfect an appeal from a county’s disallowance of a claim arising out of a contract covered by the Virginia Public Procurement Act:

[T]he claimant must serve written notice of its appeal on the clerk of the county’s governing body and execute a bond to the county, both within 30 days from the date of either the decision or service of the written notice of the denial, in accordance with Code § 15.2-1246. The claimant must then institute legal action in the appropriate circuit court within six months of the date of the decision denying the claim, in accordance with Code Code §§ 2.2-4363(E) and -4364(E).

Notably, the Court recognized that Section 2.2-4363(E) also allows for an administrative appeal if available, and declined to rule on whether that subsection conflicts with section 15.2-1246. The Court also assumed without deciding that the Virginia Public Procurement Act applied, although Chesterfield County argued that it had enacted an ordinance opting out of the Act.