Contractors who have a liquidated damage provision in their contracts should be aware that their assessment can be waived by the conduct of the owner. The Mississippi Supreme Court has found that an owner was estopped from asserting delay damages where it failed to timely assert that right. Contractors faced with a liquidated damage provision may therefore be able to defend against assessment of these damages where the owner fails to affirmatively and timely assert the right to them. This may occur when the owner waits until the end of the project, long after the completion date has passed, to claim its right to liquidated damages without deducting them as they accrue.
The Mississippi construction industry is about to undergo a radical change to its lien law in response to the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Noatex Corp. v. King Construction of Houston, LLC, 732 F.3d 479 (5th Cir. 2013). Noatex affirmed a district court’s ruling that Mississippi’s "stop payment" statute was unconstitutional because it included no due process. Construction Law Toolbox reported on this decision on October 15, 2013 [Click here to view Noatex post]. Rather than revise the "stop payment" law to cure the due process issue, legislators have decided to re-write Mississippi’s lien laws. Senate Bill No. 2622 was introduced and would extend lien rights to second tier subcontractors and suppliers who currently have no lien or "stop payment" rights in Mississippi. [Click here to view SB No. 2622] This legislation can be followed by logging into www.legislature.ms.gov/.
Biggs, Ingram & Solop, PLLC’s construction attorneys Christopher Solop and Lynn Thompson are closely monitoring the legislation. When a new lien law is passed lenders, owners, contractors, subcontractors and suppliers will need to understand the intricacies of all lien rights, including effectively filing a lien, penalties for false representation of actual and conditional payments; defending or eliminating a claim of lien, deadlines for initiating litigation or arbitration of a claim of lien, and penalties for false liens.
There are plenty of different ways that a contractor can get in trouble with an owner or its subcontractors. One is to talk too much and wind up entering into a separate enforceable oral contract. The existence of an oral contract is a factual issue that will be decided by a jury or a judge in a trial without a jury, also known as a bench trial. However, the formation of a contract requires three (3) simple elements: (1) an offer, (2) acceptance of the offer, and (3) consideration. If those elements are proven by one of the parties, an enforceable contract may have been formed and someone may have to pay. There are some limited situations in which the law requires that a contract be in writing. Nevertheless, the best course of action is to speak with caution so that there is no opportunity to argue that an oral contract was made.
And remember, the statute of limitations for an oral contract is three (3) years. Miss. Code Ann. §15-1-29. So, you may want to watch what you agree to do or you may lose sleep for quite some time until the statute of limitation expires.
Once a party receives an arbitration award, it does not necessarily mean that it will voluntarily be paid. Frequently, the party receiving the arbitration award must have it confirmed by the court and converted into a judgment. However, the party against whom the award has been made may challenge the award and seek to have it vacated. If the dispute involves an agreement related to construction, the parties must follow the procedures set forth in the Construction Arbitration Act, Miss. Code Ann. §11-15-101, et seq. If the dispute is unrelated to construction, the parties must follow the procedures set forth in the Mississippi Arbitration Act ("MMA"), Miss. Code Ann. §11-15-1, et seq. In a recent decision, the Mississippi Court of Appeals found the party against whom an award had been granted failed not only to timely challenge the arbitration award but also failed to set forth sufficient grounds to justify vacating the arbitration award and reversed the trial court’s findings. [click here to view decision].
In reversing the trial court, the Court of Appeals first considered the timeliness requirements for vacating an arbitration award under both the MMA and the Federal Arbitration Act ("FAA"), 9 U.S.C. §§1, et seq. Under the FAA, a motion to vacate must be served within three months after the award is filed or delivered. 9 U.S.C.§12. However, under the MMA provides as follows:
An application to vacate or modify an award shall be made to the court at the term next after the making and publication of the award, upon at least five days’ notice, in writing, being given to the adverse party, if there be time for that purpose; and if there be not time, such court, or the judge thereof, may, upon good cause shown, order a stay of proceeding upon the award, either absolutely or upon such terms as shall appear just, until the next succeeding term of court.
Miss. Code Ann. §11-15-27. Because the challenging party complied with neither of these provisions, the Court of Appeals found the trial court had erred when it concluded the challenger's motion for vacation was timely.
In addition, the challenger did not set forth any of the grounds that might justify the vacating of an arbitration award. These grounds are very limited and set forth in 9 U.S.C. §10(a) or under Miss. Code Ann. §11-15-23. Accordingly, the Court of Appeals reversed the trial court for finding otherwise.
Although this case dealt with the MMA, the Mississippi Construction Arbitration Act also has strict filing deadlines for challenging an arbitration award and extremely limited grounds for challenging an award. It is therefore imperative that upon receipt of the arbitration award contractors consult their lawyer or the Mississippi Construction Arbitration Act to determine the time limitations for modifying or vacating an arbitration award.
On May 13, 2009, I published a blog titled "Who can be a "Qualifying Party" for a Contractor’s Certificate of Responsibility". [Click to view blog post] The blog article states that the requirement for a contractor’s Certificate of Responsibility for a public contract is $50,000 and a private contract is $100,000. Since the writing of that blog article, the statute has been amended and effective July 1, 2010, a Certificate of Responsibility is required on all contracts, both public and private, in excess of $50,000.
How would you feel if you performed thousands of dollars of work on a construction project and were then told you would not be paid anything? That is exactly what has happened with a recent decision from the Mississippi Court of Appeals. The Court’s opinion makes it absolutely clear that any contract entered into in violation of Miss. Code Ann. §31-3-15 is null and void. [click here for decision] This means if a contractor does not have a Certificate of Responsibility (“COR”) from the Mississippi State Board of Contractors for work in excess of $50,000 on a private or public project, the contract is null and void and the contractor is not entitled to ANY compensation under ANY legal theory if it performed work without the appropriate COR.
In this particular case, the subcontractor did not have a COR but entered into a contract with the prime contractor. When the subcontractor sued for payment, the prime contractor claimed the subcontract was null and void and refused to pay the subcontractor. The trial court agreed and the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the decision.
This decision is an important reminder for prime contractors and subcontractors at all tiers to make sure that you have the required COR for the work to be performed. If there is any doubt, contractors should contact the Mississippi State Board of Contractors at (601) 354-6161, (808) 880-6161 or visit their website at www.msboc.us.
A tolling agreement is an agreement to suspend or extend the statute of limitation (the time within which you are required to file a lawsuit or lose the right to sue). These types of agreements are typically proposed to delay the filing of a lawsuit while parties attempt to settle the matter in dispute. However, you should proceed with caution when considering such agreements, because Mississippi has another law that forbids changing certain statutes of limitation.
Recently, the Mississippi Supreme Court considered these types of agreements again. Although the Court decided that the statute of limitation could be tolled for certain kinds of actions, the Court also ruled that the statute of repose cannot be touched. The statute of repose is a maximum period of time under which a lawsuit can be filed no matter what the circumstances may be.
The Court also listed five requirements that must be met in those situations where a tolling agreement is allowed:
A tolling agreement may be enforceable if (1) it is not prohibited by statute; (2) it contains a definite and reasonable time period; (3) it is formed after the cause of action has accrued, or in the instance of a statute of repose, after the plaintiff has notice of the cause of action; (4) it is not made at the same time as, or part of , the obligation sued upon; and (5) it is entered into before the expiration of the applicable limitations period.
If you are considering entering into a tolling agreement, don’t make that decision alone. You can be giving up substantial rights if a Mississippi court refuses to recognize the agreement. Before signing, consult with legal counsel experienced in contract law.
On April 12, 2012, United States Magistrate Judge S. Allan Alexander issued an order and opinion finding Mississippi’s "stop payment" statute, Miss. Code Ann. §85-7-181 (1972) unconstitutional stating:
[T]he court is compelled to hold that Mississippi’s stop notice statute violates due process by authorizing what is in practical effect the prejudgment attachment of funds without prior notice and hearing, or an acceptable post-seizure remedy. Consequently, §85-7-181 is facially unconstitutional...
The decision has been appealed. Because the district court’s decision is based upon an "Erie guess", the State courts in Mississippi are not bound to follow the district court’s decision. Nonetheless, subcontractors that have previously relied upon "stop payment" rights may see this decision cited by general contractors and owners to challenge a stop payment notice.
It will be interesting to see how this decision develops on appeal. Stay tuned for more information.
There are only two pieces of construction related legislation that passed during the 2012 session worthy of mention. The first piece of legislation is HB 1301. Click here to see HB 1301. This bill amends Miss. Code Ann. § 85-7-185 to add the requirement that an owner or contractor furnish a copy of a payment bond when requested by a subcontractor or supplier. The second bill is SB 2902. Click here to see SB 2902. This bill makes it a misdemeanor for a contractor to negotiate a joint check "tendered in payment for material or equipment furnished or labor performed" without the authorization of the other party. The offending contractor could also be fined up to $500.00, ordered to make full restitution and be required to pay the attorney’s fees.
If you are bidding on a project for a school board and are aggrieved by the decision to award the contract to another party, you must appeal the order "within ten (10) days from the date of adjournment of the meeting at which the order is entered." Miss. Code Ann. § 37-7-115. The procedure for appealing the award decision is the same as set forth in Miss. Code Ann. § 11-51-75 and requires preparing and filing a bill of exceptions with the circuit court. Because of the short time within which to appeal the decision, a contractor must not delay in deciding whether to appeal or walk away and fight another day.
In an article published on June 9, 2011, by Brenda Redfern, employers were reminded that effective July 1, 2011, the Mississippi Employment Protection Act requires all Mississippi businesses to E-Verify all new employees. In conjunction with this statutory mandate, the Mississippi Department of Employment Security ("MDES") has announced it will E-Verify any prospective employees for employers who are looking to retain workers through MDES. Click here to see the article published regarding this e-verify service in the Mississippi Business Journal on July 18, 2011. An employer simply has to place a job order with MDES by calling 888-844-3511 or contacting a WIN Job Center. MDES will send a list of prospective employees, all of whom will be E-Verified. When an individual is hired, the employer simply notifies MDES and it will send an official "Certification of I-9 Completion" to the employer. This service can assist contractors in identifying potential employees and save many administrative hours and headaches.
In addition, MDES has also agreed to implement a process it calls "reversal referrals". This is where an employer identifies a prospective employee and can send him/her to a WIN Job Center where the individual is E-Verified. The name of the individual is sent back to the prospective employer by MDES and, if hired, MDES will send the required certification. Employees that use MDES for E-Verification may relieve themselves from potential liability under the Mississippi Employment Protection Act.
Contractors should consider taking advantage of this free service by MDES in these difficult economic times.
During the course of construction, contractors will sometimes find that the owner and/or architect are demanding more work than the contractor reasonably interprets the plans and specifications to require. The typical owner and/or architect solution to the dispute is simply to tell the contractor its interpretation is incorrect and direct the contractor to proceed with what the contractor considers additional work. Later, the owner may attempt to rely upon the lack of a written change order authorizing the performance to deny compensation and/or time for performance of additional work.
Does the contractor walk off the job or proceed with the additional work notwithstanding this dispute? Most contracts require contractors to proceed with the work notwithstanding the existence of a dispute; otherwise, the contractor might be subject to a default termination. However, such provisions also typically require the owner to continue payments under the contract for undisputed work. The idea is to keep the project moving forward—i.e., to prevent the contractor from bringing the project to a halt pending resolution of disputed items and to prevent the owner from holding the contractor’s funds hostage pending the resolution of the dispute.The contractor must therefore generally proceed with the performance of additional work without immediate compensation for that work.
However, it does not mean that the contractor is performing the work gratuitously. The refusal of the owner to issue a change order for the additional work may not insulate it from liability. "[U]nder Mississippi law, where the owner orders the contractor to perform extra work outside the contract, the contractor is entitled to compensation for that work, despite the fact that no change order was issued." See Sentinel Industrial Contracting Corp. v. Kimmins Industrial Service Corp. In Sentinel, the Mississippi Supreme Court recognized the inherent inequity in allowing the contractor to demand a subcontractor perform extra-contractual work without a change order and then deny compensation because a change order had not been issued.
This same rationale should apply to the situation where an owner directs the contractor to perform work without a change order. When this occurs, the contractors must place the owner and/or architect on written notice of its objection to the additional work and reserve its right to recover the costs and/or time associated with the change order work. Simply stated, the duty to proceed does not entitle the owner to avoid paying for legitimate change order work even in the absence of a written change order.
Mississippi contractors should know that Mississippi law (§15-1-41) allows a party to bring suit for defective construction within six (6) years “after the written acceptance or actual occupancy or use, whichever occurs first, of such improvement by the owner thereof.” The last thing a contractor wants to be confronted with, especially if the contractor is no longer in business, is a demand or lawsuit to address allegedly defective work. This scenario may not have seemed likely five years ago, but with the downturn in the economy, many contractors are being forced to close their doors. Don’t panic—yet. Your insurance or that purchased by your subcontractors where you were identified as an additional insured may provide you with defense and indemnity protection.
When you do get a demand or served with a lawsuit from a former client alleging defective construction, you should contact your legal counsel and insurance agent. Your legal counsel can advise you how to respond to the demand or lawsuit and your insurance agent can help you find the policy in place when the project was constructed. You will then be in a position to notify your insurance carrier of the situation. Hopefully, your policy will either cover the claim of defective construction or pay for the cost associated with defending against the claim. If your insurance carrier or that of your subcontractor sends you a letter denying coverage, do not take no for an answer—at least not right away. You should have your attorney review the applicable policy language to verify whether there is coverage.
In an attempt to avoid liability for the various deficiencies in its plans and specifications, some architects and engineers rely upon the general disclaimers set forth in the contract documents. However, the United States Supreme Court has held these general disclaimers are unenforceable as a matter of law. In U.S. v. Spearin, the Supreme Court ruled that the Owner is responsible and affirmatively warrants the adequacy of its plans and specifications and that responsibility "is not overcome by the usual clauses requiring builders to visit the site, check the plans, and to inform themselves of the requirements of the work." Similarly, in Baldi Bros. Constructors v. U.S., the U.S. Court of Federal Claims ruled that such general contractual provisions, even including a provision which states the owner does not guarantee the statements of fact in the specifications, will not relieve the owner from liability for providing misleading information to the contractor
Neither the Owner nor the design professional can fully shield itself from liability for its errors and/or omissions in the plans and specifications through disclaimers in the contract documents. Likewise, disclaimers shifting the burden of costs associated with errors and/or omissions are also generally unenforceable. A contractor is therefore typically entitled to rely on the representations in the plans and specifications, but the contractor should nevertheless perform a reasonable site inspection and review of the plans and specifications so that obvious errors and/or omissions can be addressed prior to bidding.
When a contractor does find itself confronted with such general disclaimers and the owner and/or architect nonetheless issues a directive to proceed, the contractor must document its position with regard to the error and/or omission to protect its position. The lack of such documentation may substantially impair, if not be fatal, to the contractor’s claim for additional compensation and/or time.
The objective of a claim is to explain why the contractor is entitled to equitable adjustment in the contract price and time. This requires the contractor to establish (a) entitlement or the contractual/legal right to additional compensation or time and (b) quantum or the amount of additional compensation to which the contractor is entitled. The contractor provides this information in the form of a narrative statement including all relevant supporting documentation.
The general format for any request for equitable adjustment should include the following:
- Describe what the contract documents required, citing to the specific portions of the plans and specifications (copy and attach relevant portions of the contract document as part of the claim).
- Describe how the contractor interpreted the contract documents and relied upon this interpretation in preparing its bid and developing a plan for performance.
- Explain the contractor’s original plan for performance based upon the representations in the contract documents.
- Describe how the contractor’s plan for performance was changed or impacted. Include citations to correspondence and other documents to support the change and all notifications to architect/owner. (incorporate photographs if available)
- Set forth the calculations for quantum and include all supporting data (invoices, payroll documents, green book/corps of engineer pages supporting equipment rates, time sheets and/or daily reports etc.)
In these difficult economic times it is essential that a contractor provides a comprehensive and complete document as the first step in the claim process. If the initial claim is thorough and properly supported, it conveys the message that the contractor knows what he is doing and has legitimate grounds for an equitable adjustment. Conversely, a loosely prepared, unsupported claim sends the message that the contractor is just looking for more money and cannot backup the claim. It takes time to prepare a detailed claim, but it is time well spent.
On July 21, 2009, the Mississippi Court of Appeals made it clear that any contract entered into by a party with an unlicensed contractor is null and void. United Plumbing & Heating Company v. AmSouth Bank (Ct. App. No. 2007-CA-01194). This is the first reported decision that addresses the interpretation of Miss. Code Ann. § 31-3-15. This statute provides in pertinent part as follows:
No contract for public or private projects shall be issued or awarded to any contractor who did not have a current certificate of responsibility issued by said board [of contractors] at the time of submission of the bid…Any contract issued or awarded in violation of this section shall be null and void.
In United, the general contractor [United] entered into a contract with an owner [Wee Care] for the construction of a building. The contractor and its subcontractors were not paid for their work. The owner filed bankruptcy and the contractor filed suit against the lender [AmSouth] to recover its contract balance. AmSouth filed a motion for summary judgment arguing that because United did not have a valid certificate of responsibility, the contract was null and void. United argued that it did hold a certificate of responsibility, even though the certificate was issued in a classification different from the type of work being performed for Wee Care. The trial court granted summary judgment in favor of AmSouth. United appealed the decision but the Mississippi Court of Appeals affirmed the trial court’s ruling finding:
[T]he contract entered into between United and Wee Care was null and void because United failed to possess the appropriate certificate of responsibility for the type of work it undertook to perform. Having found that United’s contract with Wee Care was void, it follows that any contractual obligations AmSouth [the lender] may have owed [United or] the subcontractors are also void.
(emphasis added). If a contractor or subcontractor does not have a current certificate of responsibility, it may find itself in the position of having furnished labor and material on a project and not being paid. This could result in a financial disaster for one party and a windfall for the other party.
United makes it abundantly clear that owners, contractors and subcontractors should always check Mississippi State Board of Contractors to determine if the contractor or subcontractor holds a license for the work to be performed. It is also prudent for a party to confirm with the licensed entity that the qualifying party is currently an "owner, or a responsible managing employee, or a responsible managing officer, or a member of the executive staff…" See, Who Can be a "Qualifying Party" for a Contractor’s Certificate of Responsibility? Posted on this blog site by Christopher Solop, May 13, 2009. (The State Board of Contractors has recently proposed an amendment to Rule L shortening the period to replace a qualifying party after the individual holding the certificate of responsibility leaves the employment of the company from 180 days to 90 days. This change will take effect on October 8, 2009.)
There is an emerging trend in public bids to include a requirement for a mandatory pre-bid meeting. The requirement to attend the pre-bid meeting is typically set forth in the Instructions to Bidders ("ITB") and provides that a contractor’s failure to attend will result in its bid being rejected as non-responsive.
As a preliminary matter, there is no Mississippi statute or regulation which requires a public agency to conduct a pre-bid meeting or for a contractor to attend a pre-bid meeting to qualify it to submit a bid. This is a "requirement" typically included in the Instructions to Bidders by the Owner/Architect. One reason it may be included is to give "local" contractors an advantage over "foreign" contractors. "Foreign" contractors are forced to expend additional time and effort to attend the pre-bid meeting, and cannot simply throw a bid together and submit it to the public agency. Another reason the requirement is included may be to give the opportunity for the Owner/Architect to give final, pre-bid information on the project requirements and, sometimes, even to serve as an alternative (though not a good one) to an amendment to the ITB.
A contractor that does not attend the pre-bid meeting risks the potential for having its bid rejected as non-responsive. If the Owner/Architect truly intends to enforce this requirement, at bid opening the Owner/Architect should examine each bid to determine the identity of the bidder and compare it to the list of attendees at the pre-bid meeting. If the bidder did not attend the pre-bid meeting, the Owner/Architect should return the bid unopened.
In most instances, the Owner/Architect will open the bids and address the issue only if the apparent low bidder has not attended the pre-bid meeting. The bigger the spread between the apparent low bidder and the second low bidder, the more likely it is that failure to attend the mandatory pre-bid meeting will be waived. The Mississippi Attorney General has opined that "a bidding irregularity may be waived if: (1) the irregularity does not destroy the competitive character of the bid by affecting the amount of the bid thereby giving the bidder an advantage or benefit over other bidders and (2) the irregularity does not involve noncompliance with a statutory or regulatory requirement." Because the requirement to attend a pre-bid meeting is not a statutory or regulatory requirement, Owners/Architects frequently waive the pre-bid meeting requirement without a challenge.
If, however, the Owner/Architect does not agree to voluntarily waive the irregularity, an argument can be made that by opening the contractor’s bid that did not attend the pre-bid meeting; the Owner/Architect has already waived the requirement.
There is another alternative. A contractor that is concerned about the requirement for a mandatory pre-bid meeting can file a pre-bid protest with the public agency challenging this requirement as unduly restrictive on competition and not in the best interests of the public.
Contractors are occasionally confronted with a subcontractor that just cannot seem to get the job accomplished in a timely or satisfactory manner. Despite repeated warnings, the subcontractor’s performance may not improve. Because termination is an extreme remedy, contractors are generally hesitant to terminate a subcontractor. But when is enough, enough? The Court of Appeals for Mississippi provided some guidance on this issue in Byrd Brothers, LLC v. Herring, 861 So.2d 1070 (Miss. Ct. App. 2003).
In Byrd, the contractor retained a subcontractor to perform plumbing work on a condominium complex. Shortly after the plumbing work commenced there was a dispute concerning the scope of work to be performed by the plumbing subcontractor. There were also issues with the quality of the work performed by the plumbing subcontractor. The contractor repeatedly requested the plumbing subcontractor remedy the deficiencies. However, the plumbing subcontractor failed to adequately address the concerns complaining the contractor was "being too picky". When the contractor discovered billing irregularities, the plumbing subcontractor was asked to leave the project site. The contractor later requested the plumbing subcontractor meet to discuss his performance issues and completion of the project but the plumbing subcontractor refused unless the contractor immediately paid him some money. When this did not occur, the plumbing subcontractor refused to meet and did not to return to the project. The contractor retained another plumbing subcontractor to complete the work.
The original plumbing subcontractor sued the contractor for the subcontract balance and the contractor asserted a counterclaim against the plumbing subcontractor for the cost to complete the plumbing work. The trial court found in favor of the subcontractor. In reversing the trial court judgment and ordering a new trial, the Mississippi Court of Appeals articulated the following legal principle:
A party who has breached or failed to properly perform a contract has a responsibility and a right to cure the breach. The non-breaching party must give him a reasonable opportunity to cure the breach. However, the right to cure is not unlimited.
Where the breach is a material one, the non-breaching party has a right to end the contract, but in doing so he is also obligated to minimize his damages. Likewise, when the conduct of the breaching party has been of such a nature as to cause a loss of confidence or "shaken faith," the offended party is entitled to end the contract, but he remains responsible for mitigating damages.
The Byrd decision highlights the importance of providing a breaching party the opportunity to cure its breach. One warning may not be enough. Contractors need to be vigilant in their efforts to document incomplete and deficient performance and afford adequate opportunities for the subcontractor to "do the right thing". If the subcontractor fails to timely and satisfactorily respond to the contractor’s demands to cure the incomplete and/or deficient work, the cumulative impact of the incomplete and/or deficient work and the lack of responsiveness on the part of the subcontractor may result in a lack of confidence, i.e. "shaken faith", sufficient to entitle the contractor to complete the work and mitigate its damages.
To perform any public contract of at least $50,000 or private contract of at least $100,000, a contractor must hold a Certificate of Responsibility issued by the Mississippi State Board of Contractors. It makes no difference whether the "contract" to be performed is a prime contract or subcontract at any tier. Miss. Code Ann. 31-3-15.
Moverover, Mississippi law does not permit the "borrowing" of certificates of responsibility. Only a responsible managing officer, employee, or member of the executive staff of the applicant for the certificate can serve as its qualifying party. The statutes creating the State Board of Contractors, which governs the licensing of contractors, and that Board's regulations implementing those statutes are designed to prevent one person from serving as the qualifying party for entities in which he or she has not personal or managerial stake or responsibility. To allow otherwise would dilute the requirements which are meant to ensure the integrity, financial capacity, and technical capability of all entities performing construction in Mississippi.
Miss. Code Ann. 31-3-1 defines a "certificate of responsibility" as a "certificate numbered held by a contractor issued by the board under the provisions of this chapter after the payment of the special privilege license tax..."
Miss. Code Ann. 31-3-13(a) defines who can be the "qualifying party" or an applicant of a certificate of responsibility, whether such application is for a new certificate or a renewal certificate. Specifically, it states:
The board shall take applicants under consideration after having examined him or them and go thoroughly into the records and examinations, prior to granting any certificate of responsiblity. If the applicant is an individual, examination may be taken by his personal appearance for examination or by the appearance for examination of one or more of his responsible managing employees; and if a co-partnership or corporation or any other combination or organization, by the examination of one or more of the responsible managing officers or memebers of the executive staff of the applicant's firm, according to its own designation.
The intent clearly is that a qualifying party be a responsible managing employee for or officer of the applicant, whether it's a sole proprietorship or corporation. The true "responsibility" for which the certificate is issued cannot be determined otherwise. In construing this requirement the State Board of Contractors promulgated the following regulation which, again, leaves no doubt that the "qualifying party" must be intimately involved in the management and/or ownership of the entity claiming him or her as their qualifying party. Rule L states:
When the qualifying party terminates employement with the Certificate holder, the Mississippi State Board of Contractors must be notified in writing, by the qualifying party and the Certificate holder, within thirty (30) days of the disassociation and another party must qualify within one hundred eighty (180) days or Certificate holder will be subject to suspension or revocation of its Certificate of Responsibility.
Thus, where a purposed "qualifying party" for Company A is neither a managerial employee nor an officer of that company but, in fact, owns or is the officer of another, unrelated Company B, but Company B routinely serves as a subcontractor to Company A, Company A and its purported "qualifying party" are in violation of MIssissippi law and the Rules and Regulations of the State Board of Contractors. (This is typically done where owners of two companies do not want to commingle business assets, finances, or interests, but they do want to pursue and perform contracts together.) Company A's Certificate of Responsibility is null and void as a matter of law.