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Feds subpoena NCCC for Culinary Center contract info

SANBORN – Federal law enforcement authorities are investigating contracts that Niagara County Community College awarded for construction of the college's Culinary Institute in Niagara Falls.

The U.S. Attorney's Office on Tuesday subpoenaed information from the college about the awarding of construction, design and legal services contracts for the $17 million project, confirmed Barbara Pierce of Tipping Point Communications, a media relations firm hired by the NCCC Board of Trustees Tuesday night.

The Buffalo News reported Wednesday that the college board had hired the Bond Schoeneck & King law firm to investigate allegations that the bidding was tainted on construction of the college's Culinary Institute in 2011.

The construction management firm on the project was LPCiminelli, the same firm whose former top executives are under indictment on bid-rigging charges connected to Buffalo Billion construction projects.

NCCC President James Klyczek

NCCC President James P. Klyczek selected LPCiminelli as the construction manager, according to Daniel C. Oliverio, an attorney for LPCiminelli.

Two sources with knowledge of the matter indicated that so far, it seems that Klyczek is a witness, not a target, in the federal probe. One told The News that the subpoena didn't have Klyczek's name on it.

"It's to the college, not to Jim Klyczek," Pierce said of the subpoena.

The design firm on the Culinary Institute project was CannonDesign. The law firm was Harter Secrest & Emery, with some work farmed out to another law firm, Harris Beach.

The subpoena may show that federal law enforcement could be expanding its probe of LPCiminelli to other projects.

One of the former executives indicted in the Buffalo Billion case, Kevin C. Schuler, was a member of the NCCC Board of Trustees at the time the Culinary Institute was being built.

Eight firms bid on the construction management contract, and LPCiminelli was the highest-priced, according to Oliverio.

However, the college's request for proposals for a construction management firm, obtained by The News, makes it clear that price didn't matter as much as experience.

"The evaluation process is designed to award the proposal not necessarily to the firm of least cost, but rather to the firm with the best combination of attributes," the document says. The attributes to be considered included experience with higher education projects and a demonstrated track record of getting "projects completed on time and within budget," the request for proposals says.

The board never voted on the LPCiminelli contract, Oliverio said. Klyczek led the group of evaluators and made the final choice, he said.

Schuler, LPCiminelli chief executive officer Louis P. Ciminelli and a third executive, Michael Laipple, who were indicted in the Buffalo Billion case resigned from the construction company earlier this month.

Pierce said Jonathan Fellows, the Bond Schoeneck attorney chosen by the board this week to head the internal investigation, also is in charge of coordinating the college's response to the subpoena. Fellows could not immediately be reached for comment.

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