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Todd Johnson Sues Sanitation District For Defamation

(File photo). Workers with Todd Johnson Construction of Danville work on the Burgin sewer system.

Robert Moore

Herald Staff

Todd Johnson Contracting Inc. of Danville is suing the Mercer County Sanitation District again.

In the new lawsuit, Johnson, one of the three contractors hired to install the Burgin sewer system, is charging the district with breach of contract, violating the Kentucky Fairness In Construction Act and defamation.

Johnson originally sued the district in March 2018, but the original dispute dates back even earlier. The contractor was awarded a $3.5 million contract to build a 25,000-foot gravity sewer main on South Main Street. Johnson has maintained the district did not provide them with accurate documentation before construction began.

In the original suit, the contractor’s lawyers said the plans “incorrectly represented” fewer utility service lines than were actually present while a geotechnical report provided by the district report did not provide the contractor with accurate subsurface conditions. As a result of the incorrect information, the contractor could not correctly calculate the time and costs before bidding on the job.

In both suit, Johnson’s attorneys argue that the gas utility “imposed blasting restrictions” which ultimately led the contractor to ask the district for additional time as well as money needed to complete the job.

Johnson entered negotiations with the district in November 2017. However, the district denied the contractor’s request for more money, saying Johnson started 70 days late and did not do their homework before starting construction.

Johnson is charging the district with breach of contract for refusing to pay the remaining balance of $164,720.53, which includes retainage as well as money which Johnson maintains the district has inappropriately held for liquidated damages.

The contractor is saying they are entitled to recover interest at 12-percent on all amounts owed to them under the Kentucky Fairness In Construction Act.

They are also saying the district made “false and defamatory statements” to the Harrodsburg Herald.

The complaint refers to a June 20, 2019, story, in which the sanitation district’s board of directors said Johnson had defaulted on the project. The complaint refers to statements made by District Chairman James Dunn and Executive Director Mike Sanford.

According to complaint, the district could not proceed with termination of the contract if Johnson corrected “its failure to perform” and proceeded “diligently to cure such failure” within seven days of receipt of notice of intent to terminate the contract.

According to the complaint, the district did not comply with the notice requirements. In addition, Johnson’s attorneys say “the district knew or should have known that its substantive statements regarding” the complainant “were false.”

In that same story, it was reported that in August 2018, the district hired a firm to perform a closed circuit TV inspection of all sewer lines installed by Johnson after finding gaps between pipe segments and sagging areas where sewage gathered in lines installed under Mulberry Street and Kentucky Route 152. The defects were found in areas where Johnson had previously made repairs.

Neither Sanford or Larry Catlett, the attorney for the sanitation district, had any comment about the lawsuit beyond saying the original lawsuit is still ongoing.

The Harrodsburg Herald reached out via email and phone to John W. Hays and Christopher F. Hoskins, the attorneys at Jackson Kelly PLLC in Lexington who represent Todd Johnson.

As of press time, we have not received a response.

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