Asbestos 101: A Review

Okay, class, when your client complains about the quality of your work, should you sue for an extra $13 million? Anyone? You, in the back?

DPC owner Buddy Klein says Metro's attorneys should take an even closer look at the buildings: Much of the fireproofing MCO put up to replace the asbestos is falling off, he contends; in some sections there is no fireproofing whatsoever. "Why wasn't this work condemned by county inspectors long ago?" the contractor asks.

MCO attorney David Swimmer says he has no idea what Klein is talking about, and asserts that as a competitor of MCO, Klein clearly has an ax to grind. Swimmer also denies the county's claim that MCO damaged the Eastern buildings while removing the asbestos.

Since January Swimmer and the county attorney's office have been trading requests for information. Last month the county received ten cartons filled with records from MCO A more than 10,000 documents in all A which officials are in the process of copying and sending to the accounting firm of Deloitte & Touche for analysis. Once that process is complete, perhaps by early summer, the county could begin deposing the Otazos.

In a deposition, the Otazos would be questioned under oath about the alleged inconsistencies in their claim. That, of course, would not be necessary if lobbyist DeGrandy manages to negotiate a settlement in the matter.

Deborah Mastin says she won't even discuss a possible settlement until she has had a chance to review all the documents. But DeGrandy's presence has some officials of the Dade County Aviation Department privately worried that the county manager and the Metro Commission might settle with the Otazos before the truth can be discovered. DeGrandy, who served in the state legislature from 1989 to 1994 and is currently an attorney in the law firm of Greenberg Traurig, was recently successful in persuading commissioners to award the exclusive right to develop Homestead Air Force Base to a group of politically powerful local businessmen. DeGrandy was unavailable for comment last week. His assistant says he was in town but was on vacation and could not be reached.

Mastin says if the case does go to a jury trial, it may take years to resolve. The more she learns about MCO's billing practices in other county projects, she adds, the greater the likelihood Metro's countersuit could grow. "I haven't expanded the suit at this time," she says, "although I certainly haven't ruled that out." In the meantime, despite MCO's pending $13 million suit, commissioners last summer voted to allow the firm to continue bidding on projects at Miami International Airport.

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