The Sicilian Mafia and janitorial services might seem an unusual pairing, but it’s at the root of nine years of litigation ruled on today by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.
The case began in 1999 after a U.S. Naval contracting officer awarded a $28 million maintenance case to Joint Venture Conserv. at the Navy’s Sigonella Air Base near Catania, Italy. The janitorial services company was owned by Carmelo La Mastra, who had been indicted by Italian prosecutors in 1997 for his alleged role in a mafia scheme to win construction contracts on the base. A losing bidder, Impresa Construzioni, filed a protest over both the price and ethical questions surrounding the winner.
ALM's Jonathan Ringel wrote about the case back in 2000, when New York attorney Sam Gdanski first went to the Federal Circuit seeking to overturn U.S. Court of Federal Claims Judge Emily Clark Hewitt’s ruling that the Navy awarded the contract properly and that La Mastra’s alleged mafia ties were “irrelevant.”
Gdanski won, and the award of fees under the Equal Access to Justice Act has now become the main contention of the case. The original fee request amounted to several hundred thousand dollars, he says, and he intends to seek fees for copious subsequent litigation. “The DOJ categorically imposed opposed us every step of the way,” he says. “They wouldn’t compromise on anything.”
At the heart of Federal Circuit’s decision today was the question of whether a voluntary dismissal of a case is appealable, and if so, in what time frame. Two of the three judges sided with Gdanski. The Department of Justice team couldn’t be reached for comment Friday afternoon.
Gdanski, meanwhile, says he’s looking forward to the next round. ”Ever since oral argument, I’ve been checking the Web site every day,” he says.