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Santa Clarita / Antelope Valley : Ex-Architect on Planned Antelope Valley Court Sues County : Lancaster: Peter G. Kudrave claims he was wrongfully fired and seeks lost fees, damages. Project remains in design phase.

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TIMES STAFF WRITER

The former architect of the much-delayed Antelope Valley courthouse construction project has sued Los Angeles County, alleging he was wrongfully fired and is owed millions of dollars in back pay and expenses.

In the suit, filed Monday in Los Angeles Superior Court, architect Peter G. Kudrave claims he properly prepared the project designs. But, he claims in the suit, he was fired without good reason after county officials made “numerous, excessive, unwarranted and untimely design changes.”

The $80-million project is still in the design phase, three years after the construction contract was awarded. Kudrave claims that after putting out hefty advances to subcontractors, he is broke and his business is ruined.

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“His 10- to 15-man firm didn’t screw this up,” said Kudrave’s attorney, C. Peter Anderson of San Dimas.

The Antelope Valley’s booming population has catapulted a new courthouse to the top of local officials’ wish lists. But ground has never been broken.

According to Howard Millings, manager of the Superior Court in Lancaster: “The latest I hear on a new courthouse is, ‘Don’t expect it before the end of the century.’ ”

On Feb. 18, 1992, the county signed a contract with a Laguna Niguel-based developer, Birtcher Campbell Properties II, to build the courthouse. The developer hired Kudrave as project architect.

Plans for the four-story structure in Lancaster, on a 10-acre site bought by the county for $1.8 million on Avenue M at 4th Street West, called for nine Superior Courts, six Municipal Courts, chambers for 21 judges and offices for district attorneys, public defenders and other court staff.

The planned courthouse would replace the current cramped facility on Avenue J at 10th Street West, built in 1962. The beige, two-story building and adjoining bungalows house four Superior Courts and five Municipal Courts. A sixth Municipal Court floats from room to room.

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A Superior Court that handles civil cases regularly is called to order across the street, at a meeting room in the public library.

The two courts serve most of the sprawling northern reaches of Los Angeles County, including the cities of Lancaster and Palmdale and such high desert outposts as Pearblossom.

When the 1992 contract was awarded, construction was due to begin in 1994 and completion was set for 1996.

Almost immediately, however, that timetable was thrown off. Within months, county officials scrapped the design. However, Kudrave and the developer were paid a combined $1 million for that original design, according to Anderson, Kudrave’s attorney.

In 1993, the county approved a redesign, for which Kudrave was paid another $2 million, according to Anderson. Several months later the project was halted again, in favor of a Chatsworth-based Municipal Court. That facility has also not been built.

In May, 1994, the County Board of Supervisors ordered planning for the Lancaster courthouse resumed. Birtcher hired a new architect, Pasadena-based Mosakowski Lindsey Associates, and fired Kudrave.

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Instead of completing the Kudrave design, the county opted to start from scratch. “It’s beyond comprehension,” Anderson said.

Kudrave, 58, is owed about $2.4 million in back time and expenses and another $650,000 in lost value to his business, Anderson claimed.

The suit filed by Kudrave seeks another $2 million in punitive damages. It names as defendants the county, the three officials at the county’s Internal Services Department who oversaw the project and Mosakowski Lindsey Associates.

It includes claims for breach of contract, negligence and interference with Kudrave’s contract with Birtcher.

Noting that Kudrave did not have a contract with the county, Karen Lichtenberg, a deputy county counsel, said Thursday that the claims against the county and the three ISD project managers appeared to lack merit.

She stressed that she had not yet seen the suit, but said: “We just don’t think there’s any basis for (Kudrave) to file suit against the county.”

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Michael Mosakowski, the architectural firm’s chief executive officer, could not be reached for comment Thursday.

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