Logger aims to get damages for canceled contract

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Eureka-based EM Logging is looking to recover $2.5 million in damages after winning an appeal of a terminated logging contract on Kootenai National Forest.

A federal appeals court on Feb. 20 overturned a lower court ruling that the Forest Service had acted appropriately in terminating the contract, awarded in August 2010, for alleged “flagrant violations” committed by the company’s owner, Enos Miller.

A press release from Doney Crowley P.C., the Helena law firm representing Miller, stated the appellate court found a lack of support for the federal agency’s allegations. The Forest Service terminated the contract in March 2011 “for repeated and ongoing disregard for the terms of the contract, almost from the start of logging and hauling operations.”

The alleged violations included transporting logs in trucks that were too heavy and not using the designated routes. The agency also contended that Miller failed to notify officials in a timely manner when his loads were delayed en route to weighing areas.

The appeals court determined that multiple instances in which the Forest Service said Miller had exceeded weight restrictions lacked substantial evidence. Weight restrictions for logging trucks depend in part on the trucks’ configurations, such as the distance between axles, and the court said the citations failed to include that information. In only one instance had a driver for Miller’s company been ticketed by a Montana Highway Patrol trooper for an overweight vehicle.

Likewise, the court only found substantial evidence of one route deviation — which it noted was necessitated by illness — and two instances of delayed notification.

The press release also quoted Miller’s attorney, Allan Payne, who said the Forest Service “needlessly damaged Mr. Miller’s reputation in the community when they were at fault all along.”

Payne said when the Forest Service reopened the project to bids, they specifically noted that Miller’s company was barred from the contract rather than notifying him privately.

The release also said that Miller is seeking $2.5 million, the amount of expected profit from the $4 million in timber sales. He is also attempting to recover $350,000 — a performance bond and down payment  — that was “seized by the government.”

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