The former general contractor for a power plant under construction in Pepeekeo is suing the developer and a construction crisis consultant, claiming they locked the contractor out of the construction site for the purposes of theft and corporate espionage.
The civil suit was filed Feb. 27 in Hilo Circuit Court by attorney Paul Hamano on behalf of Hawaiian Dredging Construction Co. Inc. against Hu Honua Bioenergy LLC, Paragon Construction Consulting Inc., and numerous Doe entities. It seeks unspecified damages and an injunction requiring Hu Honua to return Hawaiian Dredging’s property and to prohibit it from using information allegedly stolen from its computers.
The suit claims Hu Honua and Paragon, the latter a Fullerton, Calif., firm, locked Hawaiian Dredging out of the construction site of the wood-burning power plant Feb. 7. That was eight days after Hawaiian Dredging filed for a lien against Hu Honua and Maukaloa Farms LLC, owner of the 25-acre property, claiming more than $35 million in unpaid bills. The suit states Hawaiian Dredging terminated its contract with Hu Honua on Dec. 23 because of the latter’s “failure to timely compensate Hawaiian Dredging for work performed on the project ....” It also alleges that on Feb. 9, counsel for Hu Honua notified counsel for Hawaiian Dredging that its entry rights to the construction site were revoked.
According to the filing, after Hawaiian Dredging was locked out, Hu Honua and Paragon “broke into the locked offices on the project site where Hawaiian Dredging had been conducting its work and took laptop computers and hard drives belonging to Hawaiian Dredging containing confidential and proprietary trade secret information and attorney-client communications and attorney work product materials to support Hawaiian Dredging’s claims in the arbitration and judicial lien proceedings” and downloaded that information.
Allegations include that the defendants “continued to intentionally enter Hawaiian Dredging’s offices trailers and containers at the Property … by cutting off locks … and replacing them with new locks to preclude Hawaiian Dredging’s access.” The suit claims “Hawaiian Dredging sought to recover equipment, vehicles, computers, electronic files, materials, and other items belonging to Hawaiian Dredging from the property and made a demand for the return of the same.”
Hawaiian Dredging was allowed access Feb. 19 “for the limited purpose of retrieving certain items belonging to Hawaiian Dredging.” At that time, the contractor discovered the missing computers and electronic files, the suit states. It further alleges that on Feb. 26, Hu Honua’s legal counsel “conceded” Hu Honua “downloaded Hawaiian Dredging’s electronic files ‘to a hard drive’” and since “refused to voluntarily surrender the same.”
In a Tuesday email on behalf of Hu Honua, Ashley Kierkiewicz of Hastings &Pleadwell: A Communications Company, wrote: “Hawaiian Dredging Construction Company began demobilization from the Hu Honua Bioenergy site in December 2013. Since February 2014, my client has provided HDCC with supervised access to the site.”
The filing claims Hu Honua’s and Paragon’s alleged actions “were designed to gain an unfair advantage against Hawaiian Dredging” in the lien proceedings. The next hearing in that case is scheduled for 8 a.m. Thursday before Hilo Circuit Judge Greg Nakamura. Seven lien applications have been filed since late December against the developer of the 21.5-megawatt power plant under construction. Six of those are still active.
Paragon’s website touts that it specializes in “mid-project crisis assessment, response and rehabilitation.”
“When delays, cost overruns, disputes or other problems threaten to derail a project, the Paragon Team steps in to quickly assess the situation, design an intervention plan, and immediately deploy any necessary resources for timely completion — including takeover construction services and property management,” the site states.
In a written statement Feb. 6, Hu Honua President John Sylvia announced Performance Mechanical Inc. of Pittsburg, Calif., as the new general contractor for the project. He stated “construction is expected to return to full staffing levels by mid-summer” and that the plant “is expected to be ready for commercial operation about one year from when construction resumes ....”
Phone calls Tuesday morning to Hamano, co-counsel Keith Yamada, Gary Yokoyama, vice president and general counsel for Hawaiian Dredging and to Paragon’s main office were not returned by press time.
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