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Construction company claims Arlington ISD still owes them millions for repairs made at Sam Houston High School after the February 2021 winter storm

RJ Construction spent 11 days, working an around-the-clock emergency schedule to try to dry a 450,000-square-foot high school -- and says it still hasn't been paid

ARLINGTON, Texas — The record cold of Winter Storm Uri caused pipes to burst last year in Arlington’s Sam Houston High School, leaving water to flood much of the building.

Arlington ISD officials asked Robert Jordan and his company, RJ Construction, to put an end to the damage – and to keep any more tax dollars from being wasted.

“Imagine a bunch of dirty diapers sitting for a week in a sopping wet mess...” Jordan told WFAA.

Jordan said he and his 37 employees spent 11 days, working an around-the-clock emergency schedule to dry and dehumidify the 450,000-square-foot school to prevent the moisture from causing further damage.

Credit: RJ Construction
A video taken in February 2021 shows the damage Uri caused at Sam Houston High School.

The emergency work, he said, would allow students to return to school as soon as possible.

“We were finding rooms that were wet that no one knew was wet that sat there for a week,” Jordan said.

Jordan, an Arlington school district graduate himself, told WFAA the emergency work could have cost $2 million, but he gave the district what he calls a “sweetheart price.”

Credit: RJ Construction
Employees with RJ Construction work to get Sam Houston High School back open.

“I gave you a hometown discount,” said Jordan, who built his multi-million-dollar company in Arlington out of the back of his truck.

But a year later, Jordan, still has not been paid for the full job. 

It’s a paycheck worth more than $1 million.

Arlington ISD officials do not claim the work was not completed satisfactorily.

Credit: RJ Construction
Photo of RJ Construction employees working inside Sam Houston High School.

Instead, Arlington school officials told Jordan that because his company was not on the school district’s approved bid list, any payment would require AISD Board approval.

 Without AISD Board approval, school officials argue they do not have to pay.

The district also argues private companies cannot file suit and collect damages from the district, citing the legal defense of “sovereign immunity.”

Credit: WFAA
Robert Jordan, owner of RJ Construction, speaks with WFAA.

WFAA has aired a series of stories in which governmental agencies have cited “sovereign immunity” from property damages or even deaths. 

It’s a doctrine from Medieval Times, meaning the “King can do no wrong.”

In Texas, the state cannot be sued in its own courts without the consent of the state Legislature.

WFAA has found sovereign immunity has allowed police departments to bust down doors without asking, and cities and public hospitals able to avoid liability and dodge lawsuits, preventing Texans from gaining compensation for damages.

RELATED: 'You will get nothing. You have to walk away': Governmental immunity blocks Texans from protection

“They’re saying in the courtroom that they’re sovereign immunity, that they’re the government, they don’t have to pay their bills,” Jordan said. “And that this is frivolous, and that we should be paying their attorney’s fees because we sued them for nonpayment of the work we completed.”

Despite the immunity claims, Jordan told WFAA he was forced to file a lawsuit. Courts have ordered mediation. Jordan also has received an estimated $179,000 check from AISD, but says he never cashed it because it was insufficient and not what he agreed to.

Credit: Matt Howerton
Employees with RJ Construction protest the company's non-payment at an AISD board meeting in October of 2021.

AISD attorneys argue that a written agreement with Jordan was never brokered. Officially, AISD said in a statement, they need more “submitted documentation to confirm the value of services being performed.”

The district has since provided a fact sheet for the public, adding that Jordan billed the district for drying out the entire school but in reality only worked on less than half the square footage of the campus. 

That fact sheet can be found here.

Jordan and his attorney argue that, during the emergency,  AISD only asked for help and an invoice, which he provided.

“At no point during the time services were being rendered by RJ Construction was there any claim or complaint that RJ Construction had failed to provide adequate paperwork,” said Jordan’s attorney Michael J. Hammond. “To the contrary, the AISD was primarily concerned with getting students back into Sam Houston High School.”

“The District has been provided documentation from RJ Construction,” Hammond added. “The problem is that the District’s alleged need of additional paperwork is nothing but a bad faith excuse to avoid paying what it owes. The 'we need additional documentation' narrative is a false flag to try and cover the District’s ultimate goal, that is, to negotiate a settlement for pennies on the dollar of what was agreed to.”

An attorney representing AISD called Jordan’s public statements criticizing school officials a “public smear campaign.”

“His attorneys have defended these extra-litigation tactics as 'free speech' and have indicated he has no ethical limitations on his conduct,” attorney Dennis J. Eichelbaum said in an appeal. “Appellants cannot engage with Robert Jordan if anything they say in mediation is likely to end up in his next video.”

Jordan, for his part, said he simply wants to get paid.

“We have nothing to hide,” Jordan said.” There's nothing to hide here. We were asked to do a job and we did the job.”

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