Courts hire new facilities director

lblackford@herald-leader.comJune 30, 2009 

The state court system has hired a new director to oversee its embattled courthouse construction program.

Jamshid Baradaran, an engineer with 20 years of experience managing public facilities, is the new director of the Administrative Office of the Courts' facilities. The appointment is effective Wednesday.

Baradaran retired from the Kentucky Horse Park in 2008, where he oversaw capital construction projects and day-to-day operations, AOC Deputy Director Laurie K. Dudgeon said.

Baradaran's familiarity with state government, combined with two decades of technical and managerial experience, "will enable him to contribute quickly to the court system," Dudgeon said in a news release.

His predecessor, Garlan VanHook, was a residential architect who designed the home of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Joseph Lambert before Lambert hired him to oversee the $880 million courthouse construction program.

VanHook resigned in February shortly after the Herald-Leader began asking questions about the bonding practices of Codell Construction, a major builder of courthouses in Kentucky. In addition, the Herald-Leader reported that VanHook's brother worked for Codell.

Codell and two other construction-management companies, Branscum Construction of Russell Springs and Alliance Construction of Glasgow, had made verbal agreements with VanHook to insure only about five percent of work done on the courthouse projects. However, state law and the companies' contracts require them to provide bonds that insure 100 percent of construction costs.

Alliance and Branscum have since provided 100 percent bonds. But Codell, which has contracts for 24 of the 35 courthouses under construction, disagrees that it should pick up the premiums for providing those bonds.

Two weeks ago, Chief Justice John D. Minton Jr. sent default letters to Codell on 12 of those projects, demanding that the company fully insure its work within seven days.

Codell is still in discussion with AOC officials, but the issue has not yet been resolved, AOC spokeswoman Leigh Anne Hiatt said.

Codell has provided 100 percent bonds on nine other courthouses that already were under construction or about to begin.

The courthouses are part of a project started in 1998 by Lambert, who retired a year ago, to build 65 new justice centers around the state worth at total of $880 million. Construction managers did not have to submit competitive bids to oversee the projects.

Baradaran will work with state and county officials to complete the courthouse construction projects.

He earned his engineer-in-training license in 1983. He holds two degrees in mechanical engineering: a bachelor's degree from the University of Kentucky and a master's degree from the University of Cincinnati.

Baradaran is a member of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers and an honorary member of the American Society of Civil Engineers. He previously was a member of the Governor's Equal Employment Opportunity and Diversity Committee.

Reach Linda Blackford at (859) 231-1359.

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