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​Bona Law Seeks Court Relief Against California Agency that Unlawfully Interfered with a Veteran-Owned Business’s Competitively Awarded Contract with VA Medical Center

September 16, 2019

Jun. 3, 2020, LA JOLLA—Bona Law attorneys Aaron Gott and Kristen Harris filed a petition for writ of mandamus in California state court on behalf of Precise Management, an Alabama-based, service-disabled veteran-owned pest control company and its veteran owner. The petition requests the Court hold that the Structural Pest Control Act is preempted as applied to a U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs contract for pest control on federal property—a VA medical center—that was duly awarded through a competitive bidding process, and to overturn two of the board’s administrative decisions to the contrary.

The petition alleges the California Structural Pest Control Board exceeded its authority by interpreting the Structural Pest Control Act in a way that interferes with a contract between Precise Management and a cabinet-level federal government agency, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. More specifically, the board engaged in multiple delay tactics to thwart the company’s registration with the board and sent the company a cease and desist letter about the VA contract before the board ultimately issued two decisions, one denying the company’s registration and another revoking the veteran owner’s California pest control license, unlawfully asserting jurisdiction over the VA’s contracting process and its operations on federal property. The board’s unconstitutional actions were precipitated by a complaint from an incumbent local provider, who lost the contract to Precise Management because of its competitive bid and its status as a service-disabled veteran-owned small business.

The petition argues that the Structural Pest Control Board’s interpretation of the Structural Pest Control Act violates the Contracts Clause of the U.S. Constitution, the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution, and the California Constitution. The Supremacy Clause preempts any state law that stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the objectives of Congress. Here, the board’s actions interfered with the prerogatives set forth in the Competition in Contracts Act, which mandates competitive bidding for the procurement of services by federal agencies, the Department of Veterans Affairs Act, which defines the duties and operations of the Department of Veterans Affairs, and the Veterans’ Preference Act, which requires federal agencies to give preference to veteran-owned small businesses in awarding federal contracts.

Contracts negotiated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs must operate free from state interference. The board exceeded its authority by unconstitutionally interfering with the VA’s contract. By doing so, the board substantially impaired Precise Management’s—and its owner’s—protected interests and the board’s action does not further any substantial governmental interest.

“It is all too common that an out-of-state company wins a competitively awarded federal contract, but is prevented from performing it because a state or local government oversteps its authority in the interest of parochialism,” said Aaron Gott, a Bona Law partner. “Our petition seeks to vindicate the values of federalism and our clients, who were targeted by the Structural Pest Control Board solely because they had the audacity to bid for and win a VA contract in the manner Congress intended.”

The case has special significance to Gott and Harris, who are also veterans. Gott served in the U.S. Army and Harris served in the U.S. Marine Corps. The petition asks the court to declare the Structural Pest Control Act preempted as applied to the petitioners’ federal contracting activity and seeks to vacate the board’s decisions regarding the owner’s license and the company’s registration.