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Contractor Pushes Ahead in Fight Against Wilder 

click to enlarge Al Bowers - SCOTT ELMQUIST/FILE

Well-known contractor Al Bowers is pushing ahead with claims that former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder tried to drive him out of business.

Bower's lawsuit got a boost when Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret P. Spencer issued a ruling in March that allows Bowers to move forward in his fight against Wilder.

The case stems from Bowers' allegations that Wilder and his staff warned various developers in the region not to do business with Bowers or his companies, BFE Consulting and BFE Construction. Bowers, a go-to guy for minority contracts, first filed suit in September 2007 over his claim that Wilder conspired to remove Bowers from the $110 million Miller & Rhoads hotel and condominium project downtown.

Wilder has held that he can't be sued individually for actions taken as mayor. The last of the defendants named in Bowers' original suit — both the hotel's developer, HRI Properties in New Orleans, and the city have negotiated settlements — Wilder remains the last man standing in the ongoing dispute.

Now, lawyers for the long-time foes await word on motions filed late last month. No court date is scheduled. "Inevitably, we will be back in court," says Brent Jackson, Bowers' lead lawyer. "It's unfortunate that we have to go this route, especially since we have extended gestures of resolution on multiple occasions. ... We have been amenable to resolving this, and this has been made known."

Wilder's lead attorney, Blackwell N. Shelley Jr., declined to comment. A message left at Wilder's office at Virginia Commonwealth University's L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs wasn't returned.

For his part, Bowers says he will keep going until justice is done. "Mr. Wilder should've already apologized," he says. "When you strive to be all the best you can be, they don't teach you how to combat evil politicians."

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