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General Engineering and Technical Support Services v. Baltimore Gas and Electric

United States District Court, D. Maryland

August 26, 2019

GENERAL ENGINEERING AND TECHNICAL SUPPORT SERVICES, et al., Plaintiffs,
v.
BALTIMORE GAS AND ELECTRIC., et al., Defendants.

          MEMORANDUM OPINION

          Date Paula Xinis, United States District Judge.

         This case presents allegations of race discrimination and a 100 million-dollar damages claim untethered to provable facts. Plaintiff General Engineering and Technical Support Services (GETSS), a registered and certified Maryland Department of Transportation Minority Business Enterprise (MBE), along with individual Plaintiffs Herbert Fuller and Walter Fuller (Fuller Brothers) and GETSS (collectively Plaintiffs) bring suit against ICF and BGE (collectively Defendants), arising from a contractual arrangement never consummated. Plaintiffs specifically allege that Defendants discriminated against them in the offer and withdrawal of a services subcontract, in violation of 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ECF No. 1. Plaintiffs also bring companion claims for retaliation and promissory estoppel.

         Pending before the Court is Defendant Baltimore Gas and Electric's (BGE) and Defendant ICF Consulting Group's (ICF) motion for summary judgment (ECF No. 61) and motion for sanctions. ECF No. 52. The motions are fully briefed, and no hearing is necessary. See Loc. R. 105.6. For the following reasons, Defendants' motion for summary judgment is GRANTED and Defendants' motion for sanctions is DENIED as moot.

         I. Background

         BGE is a subsidiary of Constellation Energy that serves gas customers and business and residential electric customers in parts of Maryland. ECF No. 1 ¶ 11; ECF No. 10 ¶ 11. In April 2008, Maryland enacted legislation to reduce energy consumption across the state. ECF No. 1 ¶ 9; ECF No. 8 ¶ 9; ECF No. 10 ¶ 9. In response, BGE implemented a suite of energy efficiency programs to provide residential and commercial customers with energy and cost saving opportunities. ECF No. 1 ¶ 14; ECF No. 10 ¶ 14. BGE selected ICF to administer these programs, including the Quick Home Energy Check-ups (QHEC) Program. ECF No. 1 ¶ 15; ECF No. 10 ¶ 15. The QHEC Program educates homeowners on how to manage their energy use and identify energy efficiency opportunities in their homes. ECF No. 61-4. During a QHEC, a contractor visually inspects homes and recommends to homeowners ways to make their homes more energy efficient. Id.

         ICF uses subcontractors to administer the QHEC Program selected through an annual Request for Proposal process. ECF No. 1 ¶¶ 15, 17, 21; ECF No. 8 ¶¶ 15, 17, 21; ECF No. 61-4. During this process, ICF solicits three categories of QHEC subcontractors: Traditional Single Family, Multi-Family, and Lead Generation. ECF No. 61-6. Traditional Single-Family subcontractors provide QHECs for single-family units and receive program-generated leads based on assigned zip codes. Id. Lead Generation subcontractors pursue self-generated leads and promote QHECs through channels missed by the Program's other marketing efforts. Id. Multi-Family Only subcontractors provide QHECs for multifamily communities also through self-generated leads. Id.

         On October 31, 2014, GETSS responded to ICF's Request for Proposal to become a subcontractor for the 2015 QHEC Program. ECF No. 1 ¶ 35; ECF No. 8 ¶ 35; ECF No. 10 ¶ 35; ECF No. 61-7. GETSS is a registered and certified MBE, managed by the Fuller Brothers. ECF No. 1 ¶ 7; ECF No. 61 ¶¶ 12, 13. ICF selected GETSS as one of three Lead Generation subcontractors because of GETSS' connection to “untapped markets such as low-income housing organizations, superchurches and other religious affiliates.” ECF No. 61-6. The other two selected Lead Generation subcontractors, BED&R and greeNEWit, are not MBEs. Id.

         ICF informed GETSS via email of its selection as a Lead Generation subcontractor on November 21, 2014 for calendar year 2015. ICF also informed Plaintiffs that it would forward a subcontract agreement upon GETSS accepting the email offer. ECF No. 61-8. GETSS responded affirmatively to ICF's email four days later. Id.

         In December 2014, before sending GETSS the subcontract, ICF conducted a subcontractor training and orientation, instructed GETSS to put together a provisional operating budget of $20, 000 for interim work pending execution of the formal subcontract, and provided to GETSS an online scheduler and employee badges to use for the QHECs. ECF Nos. 62-43, 62-28, 62-46, 62-49. On March 13, 2015, ICF sent GETSS its standard subcontract agreement with an initial budget of $19, 952 (the “Proposed Subcontract”). ECF No. 61-10 at 3. On March 19, 2015, Plaintiffs requested clarification as to the time frame covered for the budgeted amount, which ICF clarified as quarterly. Id. at 1-2. Ultimately, GETSS never signed the Proposed Subcontract. Id.; ECF Nos. 61-11, 61-12.

         Despite having no formal subcontracting agreement, Plaintiffs informed ICF via email on April 3, 2015 that they intended to bill ICF “for the loss in productivity our company suffered during the first quarter as a result of delays and negligence caused [by]…your organization.” ECF No. 62-43. Plaintiffs attached to the email an invoice totaling $105, 000 for February 1, 2015 through March 15, 2015. Id. at 6. This invoice reflects that Plaintiffs did not conduct any QHECs, but nonetheless tallied expenses related to “6 weeks of work lost.” Id.

         On April 27, 2015, ICF notified Plaintiffs by email that it withdrew the Proposed Subcontract. ECF No. 61-13. Plaintiffs responded that they would “be sending invoices from April 1st through April 30th 2015, and through the entire program period which ends in December 2015.” ECF No. 61-14. On May 8, 2015, Plaintiffs emailed BGE, summarizing a conversation from the previous day in which Walter Fuller informed BGE that ICF engaged in “discrimination.” ECF No. 62-63. On June 3, 2015, Plaintiffs, by email, also accused ICF of engaging in “unethical, biased, discriminatory, corrupt, and unlawful practice[s].” ECF No. 61-15. Plaintiffs ultimately submitted invoices to ICF for July through December 2015, totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars. ECF No. 61-16. ICF never paid on any such invoices.

         On January 12, 2018, Plaintiffs filed suit in this Court against Defendants, alleging claims of promissory estoppel and race discrimination and retaliation under 42 U.S.C. § 1981. ECF No. 1. After a protracted discovery period due largely to Plaintiffs' lack of diligence and difficulties with counsel, the Fuller Brothers currently proceed pro se. ECF Nos. 25, 31, 48.

         On March 15, 2019, after Plaintiffs failed to comply with this Court's discovery Order, Defendants moved for sanctions, arguing that Plaintiffs acted in bad faith and with callous disregard for the authority of the Court. As relief, Defendants request that the Court to dismiss the case with prejudice or alternatively to preclude use of nondisclosed evidence at trial or in dispositive motions. ECF No. 52. On June 7, 2019, Defendants moved for summary judgment, incorporating by reference the sanctions motion. ECF No. 61.

         II. ...


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