A judge threw out bid rigging charges against two painting contractors and their companies Tuesday after hearing testimony that Los Angeles Unified School District officials instructed them to submit false bid documents.
Los Angeles Municipal Judge Stephen O'Neil dismissed all nine charges against Priamos Gennaris, owner of Cam Painting in Whittier, and Terry Tsetseris, owner of T & M Construction in Garden Grove.
The two contractors were charged in January with felony conspiracy against trade after a Los Angeles district attorney's investigation into the district's practice of splitting large painting jobs awarded under the $2.4-billion Proposition BB construction bond.
By issuing contracts of $15,000 or less, district officials were able to forgo state law requiring complex bidding procedures on larger jobs. The rules for small contracts allow bid solicitation by phone rather than publication of detailed specifications.
During a seven-day preliminary hearing, district inspectors testified that a contract to partially paint Narbonne High School was expanded by oral agreement after voters approved the bond in April 1997, according to defense attorneys.
After the work was done, district supervisors required Tsetseris to prepare bids for the agreed-upon price and to provide higher bids from other contractors, according to testimony.
Though Tsetseris supplied the false documents, there was no conspiracy because the work was done according to the district's instructions, said his attorney, Bruce Abel.
In dismissing the case, O'Neill said he thought district supervisors should have been prosecuted instead of the contractors.
In a related case, a district employee and a retiree still face bribery and other charges along with two painting contractors. The district attorney's office has alleged that the employees received boats and cars in exchange for awarding bids.