Court Upholds City’s Product Specification for Construction Project, but Notes that City Does Not Have Unfettered Discretion In Prohibiting Products

Advanced Drainage Sys., Inc. v. City of Portland, 214 Or. App 534, 166 P.3d 580 (2007)

A pipe manufacturer sought a declaratory judgment that the city had violated its state and federal constitutional rights to equal treatment when it rejected the use of a certain type of pipe for a city contract.  The city counterclaimed, asserting that it had complete discretion to choose products for its construction projects.  The trial court agreed with the city.  The court of appeals affirmed, but with a modification.

The city tried to argue that the manufacturer was not a citizen under the Oregon constitution and therefore lacked standing.  The appellate court left that issue for another day, deciding that it would determine standing as an issue of justiciability and not as a matter of constitutional interpretation.  The appellate court then determined that the city’s ordinances which prohibited certain types of pipe materials but not others passed any applicable tests of rationality based upon asserted claims regarding safety and maintenance.  However, the appellate court also determined that, contrary to the city’s argument, the city did not have unfettered discretion in prohibiting certain types of products and hence manufacturers.  Thus, the city could not prohibit products made by “Catholics or Norwegians," for example.

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