Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Galveston Post Office Repairs Violated Buy American And Davis-Bacon Laws

A recently released audit of the $5,268,344.00 contract for repair of storm surge damage to the Galveston Post Office and Courthouse building during Hurricane Ike found numerous violations by the principal contractor and its subcontractors of stimulus funding buy American and Davis-Bacon requirements. Federal government agencies, it seems, are having at least as much difficulty as various state bureaucracies in complying with legal requirements for spending funds appropriated under the stimulus passed by Congress in 2009.

The federal agency responsible for the repair contract, the Public Buildings Service, has improperly permitted installation of Canadian manufactured replacement boilers, in violation of stimulus appropriation “Buy American” provisions. The value of the $35,210.00 boilers was supposed to promote preservation or creation of US manufacturing jobs, but instead went north into Canada.

Furthermore, PBS permitted numerous violations of Davis-Bacon requirements that tradespeople working on stimulus funded construction projects be paid wages prevailing in the locality of the project for their specific trades. General contractor Jim Cooley Construction failed on numerous occasions to even submit to PBS the required certified contractor and subcontractor payrolls. Auditor interviews of tradespeople employed by Cooley’s subs demonstrated underpayments of up to $11.91 below Labor Department prevailing wage rates for the Galveston area.

When Cooley’s trade contractors did bother submitting certified payrolls to PBS, the required certifications of fringe benefit payments were often missing or fraudulent. Cooley’s major mechanical subcontractor, Lakewood Mechanical, Inc., failed to pay fringe benefits of up to $10.17 per hour for sheet metal workers. As many as 13 Lakewood employees were underpaid benefits in each pay period. Another Cooley sub, Mechanical Plumbing, Inc., certified payment of 243 hours of fringe benefits to a benefit fund that doesn’t even exist.

Texas is an anti-union, right to work state. You have to wonder whether Galveston PBS bureaucrats were influenced by that fact in permitting such gross violations of buy American and prevailing wage laws right under their noses on this construction project.

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