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LOSD board settles $1.5 million lawsuit

District concludes several years of litigation over bond construction


by: LAKE OSWEGO SCHOOL DISTRICT - The Lake Oswego School District reached a settlement on a legal malpractice suit for $1.5 million with law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP. The school district says the firm didnt file a lawsuit in a timely manner against LSW Architects, which worked on an $85 million, bond-funded project for improvements at local school buildings, including the rebuilding of Lake Oswego High School, shown here.The Lake Oswego School Board approved an agreement Monday to settle a legal malpractice suit for $1.5 million with law firm Davis Wright Tremaine LLP.

The board, represented by Portland law firm Rosenthal Greene & Devlin, sought reparation from Davis Wright Tremaine for legal negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. The school district alleged that the firm failed the district when filing a lawsuit for restitution against LSW Architects of Vancouver, Wash. The agreement with Davis Wright Tremaine came with the stipulation that the settlement was not an admission of fault.

LSW Architects worked on an $85 million, bond-funded project for improvements at local school buildings, including the rebuilding of Lake Oswego High School and remodeling of Lakeridge High School. Construction at both high schools began in 2002, and halfway through the work, structural deficiencies in the plans LSW prepared came to district officials’ attention, according to a prepared statement from the school board.

The board’s statement says the district hired Davis Wright Tremaine to file a lawsuit against LSW, but it was not filed in a timely manner, causing the lawsuit to be dismissed and costing the district potential restitution dollars. After several years and multiple lawsuits, the district has been able to recover $8.6 million but is $5 million short of full restitution for damages.

“We have done everything possible to get every penny back,” said Bob Barman, school board member.

Chairwoman Patti Zebrowski read the board’s statement aloud.

“This agreement brings to a conclusion the final phase of the Lake Oswego School District’s efforts to recover damages due to performance issues with architects, construction managers, construction contractors and legal counsel during the construction projects at Lake Oswego High School and Lakeridge High School,” the second sentence of the statement reads.

In November 2000, voters approved a $85 million bond for the improvement of facilities and infrastructure at LOSD schools, including the two high schools. After workers finished rebuilding LOHS, the district received a $6.7 million settlement from Robinson Construction for the faulty application of materials during construction that led to the growth of mold, district documents say.

“This can’t be tolerated in a building our students are occupying,” said Zebrowski, school board chairwoman.

The final direct cost of repairs was $10 million, and legal fees increased the district’s costs to $13 million, well below what was collected from Robinson Construction.

The school district suffered other repercussions from issues with the project.

Superintendent Bill Korach said in a 2008 interview that cost overruns and delays with the Lakeridge project were not only the fault of the architects. A variety of factors led to cost overruns, including undiscovered structural issues and late additions to the project.

In earlier claims against the district, Total Mechanical, the heating, ventilating and air conditioning contractor, posted a $370,000 claim in 2005. The district settled for $62,500. LSW’s insurance company paid $62,500 as well. The electrical subcontractor, Rosendin Electric, claimed $1.3 million in damages, and the district settled for $212,500 in 2006.

Despite legal and structural issues, the Lakeridge High remodel was finished in 2004, and the LOHS rebuild concluded in 2005.

Board member John Wendland said there are a few positive things despite all that went wrong.

“We didn’t interrupt the academic programs,” Wendland said. “We kept our kids safe, and we have two great high schools.”

Lakeridge High School athletics

Three items in the Lake Oswego School Board’s agenda centered on Lakeridge High athletics: a review of the conduct of the football team, an update on the stadium project and Pacer Baseball Inc. officials’ request for a grant for turf in the infield.

Superintendent Bill Korach said the Oregon School Activities Association is reviewing the football season, focusing on sportsmanship, player eligibility and coaching certification. District administrators also are looking at ways to address issues from the fall football season.

Lakeridge was one of the most heavily penalized teams in Oregon. At its last game of the season Dec. 5 against Jesuit High School, Lakeridge racked up 21 penalties, including 12 personal fouls. During an Aug. 20 practice volunteer football coach Michael James Cole is alleged to have punched a player in the face and was later booked into Clackamas County Jail in Oregon City. Then-coach Tom Smythe was not in attendance at the practice.

Smythe has publicly chastised offensive coordinator Chad Carlson and the football program, and Smythe chose to retire before the end of the season. So, Lakeridge is seeking a new coach.

Despite all of the issues, this has been the winningest season for Lakeridge in many years, including three straight Three Rivers League victories.

“In many ways, it was an outstanding season, but in other ways it was a season that included some disturbing behaviors,” Korach said.

Lakeridge Principal Jennifer Schiele has apologized to the community for the team’s conduct.

“I am frequently moved by the actions of our students, by their compassion, intelligence, talent, leadership, and daily diligence,” Schiele said in a written apology. “At other times, such as this one, we fall disappointingly short of our expectations for ourselves. There are no excuses for poor sportsmanship or a lack of integrity in our endeavors.”

There also was good news for Lakeridge High athletics with the board saying it will allow district officials to move forward with a project to improve the school’s stadium: submitting plans to the city for review and seeking bids upon the plan’s approval. The project includes building a cover over existing seating and adding more seating and fencing. During crowded events, some attendees must stand. The projected cost is estimated at $1.5 million and will be paid for with construction excise tax revenue and donations.

There also are other upgrades in the works for Lakeridge athletics. Representatives of Pacer Baseball Inc., the nonprofit group that supports Lakeridge Junior High and Lakeridge High baseball players, requested the board’s support with a field turf project at the high school. The group sought a $125,000, five-year loan, and the board granted the dollar amount but as a four-year loan. The group said the community has pledged to help pay for the balance of the $250,000 to $300,000 project, and the funds should be raised by March 3.

Jillian Daley can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and 503-636-1281, ext. 109. Follow her on Twitter, @JillianDaley.