'Taj Majal' courthouse spawns another legal fight

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A general contractor has challenged the Florida Department of Financial Services’ decision to reject paying for historic photographs as part of the controversial construction of a 1st District Court of Appeal building in Tallahassee. Peter R. Brown Construction Inc. filed the case Monday in the state Division of Administrative Hearings, challenging DFS’ use of rule to deny payment.

The administrative case is an offshoot of a lawsuit filed last year by Signature Art Gallery Inc., which contracted with Peter R. Brown Construction to place the photographs throughout the building. In that still-pending lawsuit, Signature has sued Peter R. Brown, DFS and the state Department of Management Services because the art firm has not been paid for its work. In the new administrative case, Peter R. Brown says DFS does not have a legally valid reason for denying the payment and that the general contractor also has been deprived of a related management fee.

The case targets what it describes as a vague rule that says, in part, the state should not pay for “decorative” items. “Crown molding, molded millwork, chandeliers, draperies, wainscoting, wall coverings, ceiling friezes and medallions, and columns with decorative bases and capitals, are all ‘decorative items’ within a building that enhance its appearance,” the challenge says. “Countless public buildings of the state of Florida have many of these elements, all of which were approved by DFS.” But in a document filed in the circuit-court case, DFS says the photographs clearly would be decorative items barred by the rule. “It strains credulity past the breaking point to argue that the reproductions in question were not intended to make the walls upon which they were to be hung more ‘attractive’ or ‘ornamental,’ ” says the document, filed in November. “That is clearly what they were intended to do; make an otherwise bare wall more attractive by affixing pictorial ornaments to them.”

The 1st District Court of Appeal project has been at the center of a long-running controversy because of what many people consider its extravagances, with the building even being dubbed the “Taj Mahal.”

Via The News Service of Florida.

Peter Schorsch is the President of Extensive Enterprises and is the publisher of some of Florida’s most influential new media websites, including SaintPetersBlog.com, FloridaPolitics.com, ContextFlorida.com, and Sunburn, the morning read of what’s hot in Florida politics. SaintPetersBlog has for three years running been ranked by the Washington Post as the best state-based blog in Florida. In addition to his publishing efforts, Peter is a political consultant to several of the state’s largest governmental affairs and public relations firms. Peter lives in St. Petersburg with his wife, Michelle, and their daughter, Ella.