As stewards of the public fisc, municipal governmental officials balance short-term and long-term economic interests with public safety and sustainability considerations before embarking on public works improvements. They must comply with competitive bidding statutes but also be mindful to ensure that only quality work and materials are procured. Municipal governments thus play an essential role in developing, setting and implementing plans and materials’ specifications for public works projects.
The use of substandard products can cost a public entity not only in terms of repair but also liability. Municipalities and other local government entities cannot afford to face a lawsuit for faulty or defective products or materials. They must take necessary precautions to ensure that the materials and products they purchase meet safety, quality, and performance standards or face the threat of costly lawsuits in the event of a product’s failure.
Municipalities enjoy broad discretion when establishing specifications for public works projects. Municipalities can and do establish standards for the nature, quality and safety of the materials procured for these projects. These specifications are generally insulated from judicial second-guessing. Courts will generally not take issue with authorized municipal agencies that established materials specifications and complied with competitive bidding requirements.
For more information see the following guidance.
Building Quality Infrastructure Safely; Questions and Answers Concerning Competitive Bidding and Materials Specifications for Municipal Castings [Hyperlink to Bill Lorne Document].