F.E. Crandall Disposal, Inc. v. Town of Ledyard
Although there is no precise test of relevancy, in State v. Colon, the 2004 Connecticut Supreme Court expounded that "[r]elevant evidence is evidence that has a logical tendency to aid the trier in the determination of an issue." For years before 2007, F.E. Crandall Disposal, Inc. collected garbage and recyclables for the town of Ledyard. The company's president, Frank Crandall, campaigned for mayor in 2007 against Fred Allyn, Jr. Sterling Superior Services, Inc. successfully secured the trash collection contract as the lowest bidder for 2007 through 2011. In 2011, Crandall Disposal was the lowest bidder. Nevertheless, the contract was awarded to Sterling. Crandall Disposal brought this action against Ledyard, Sterling, and Allyn, in his official capacity as mayor, alleging fraud, corruption and favoritism in the award of the municipal contract. The plaintiff alleged that the town exhibited a history of favoritism toward Sterling and included allegations regarding the 2007 contract. During trial, the court sustained the defendants' objection to evidence regarding the 2007 contract as not relevant and limited questions to the 2011 contract and bidding process. Thereafter, the court granted the defendants' motion for dismissal pursuant to Practice Book §15-8. The plaintiff appealed and successfully claimed that the court committed reversible error in excluding relevant evidence relating to the 2007 contract. The Appellate Court reversed the judgment and remanded the matter for a new trial. To successfully challenge a town's award of a municipal contract, an unsuccessful bidder must present evidence from which a trier of fact reasonably could conclude that it was more likely than not that the integrity of the competitive bidding process had been compromised. Crandall Disposal advanced the theory that certain town officials and Sterling's actions relative to the 2007 contract amounted to circumstantial evidence that the town impermissibly favored Sterling, and it was more likely than not that such favoritism infected the integrity of the 2011 bidding process, particularly when the plaintiff submitting the lowest bid. Excluded evidence included that the town ignored Sterling's contract violations that benefitted Sterling financially. Although not conclusive, the evidence, if true, tended to support a finding that Sterling received favorable treatment and, thus, was relevant as it could support a reasonable inference of favoritism affecting the bidding process. The error was harmful.