Breach of contract alleged on port

WEIRTON – Newly named Interim Weirton Area Port Authority Director Karl Keffer was chosen for the job because of his “background in port development, federal contracts and federal programs,” WAPA Chairman B.J. DeFelice said this week.

But court papers filed on the port’s behalf some eight months ago in Hancock County Circuit Court paint a different picture, portraying Keffer as someone whose dealings with a Bridgeport technology company had landed the port in a breach of contract lawsuit.

Citynet’s lawsuit, filed in May 2012, seeks damages in excess of $221,220, claiming the port failed to pay them for work they’d done on a so-called “middle mile” fiber optic network that Keffer, described by Citynet as “an agent and representative of the defendant,” allegedly commissioned on WAPA’s behalf.

In their response, however, port officials insisted that Keffer had acted without authorization.

“…Karl Keffer is not an authorized agent or representative of the defendant, and cannot legally bind this defendant and his actions or omissions are not governed, controlled or directed by defendant, although defendant is aware that he had discussions with (Citynet),” they said in their response to the suit. “Further, defendant denies the allegation that construction of a ‘middle mile’ fiber optic network was contemplated.”

Port officials also “(deny) any legally binding or executed agreement existed” between them and Citynet, suggesting that “the T-1 circuit was to be provided as an in-kind service, not to be invoiced to the defendant.”

Weirton Area Port Authority “is aware that an advisor to the Port Authority, not the defendant or any of its representatives, likely provided a Master Services Agreement to plaintiff, but denies the agreement was ever fully executed or binding,” the response noted.

Port officials denied they were under any agreement or legal obligation to pay the invoice “…but in the event a binding and enforceable agreement is found to exist between (Citynet) and (the port), the agreement was breached by plaintiff in that their services, or those of plaintiff’s subcontractors, were unnecessary, delayed and unprofessional, all causing significant damages and delay,” they said in their response to the lawsuit.

But in their 10-page lawsuit, the tech company referenced a series of meetings, telephone conversations and document exchanges that took place over a four-month period after Keffer approached them about the fiber optic network.

In the suit, Citynet said they’d been told in late July 2011 that the port would have $4 million in federal grant funds in hand within 60 days, at which point they’d be paid. Citynet also alleges that on Aug. 1, 2011, they met with the defendant and Thrasher Engineering to discuss the proposed route, and two days later were advised by the defendant to proceed with the engineering.

The technology company said the grant money never materialized and over the final three months of the year, the defendant offered various reasons as to why their invoice hadn’t been paid, including that new board members had been appointed and an audit issue had to be resolved before the money would be released.

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