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Attorney General James secures $125,000 from contractor for violating diversity requirements in public works project

New York Attorney General Letitia James today announced that her office secured $125,000 from a contractor that skirted diversity requirements in the Rochester Schools Modernization Program (RSMP). The Pike Company, a construction company based in Rochester, falsely certified that it complied with state diversity requirements when it subcontracted the supply of materials to several minority and women owned businesses (MWBEs). In reality, the Pike Company utilized non-MWBEs to procure those same materials. The Pike Company is one of ten contractors that have been found by the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to have violated the diversity requirements for the project to upgrade Rochester’s schools and is the most recent company to be held accountable for its violations. This agreement ends the years-long investigation into allegations of MWBE fraud in RSMP and brings the total damages and penalties secured to more than $1.3 million.

“Including minority and women-owned businesses in public projects is meant to give opportunities to communities that have been historically left out, not for contractors to work around them,” said Attorney General James. “It’s a shame that the Pike Company and other contractors took the easy way out to minimize work with minority businesses. My office has no tolerance for companies that undermine the rule of law and cheat minority and women-owned businesses. I am committed to rooting out fraud and making sure that minority and women-owned businesses get their fair share.”

The RSMP is a three-phase, billion-dollar project to rehabilitate schools in Rochester and is the largest in the city’s history. The OAG started an investigation into RSMP after it received a whistleblower complaint alleging that contractors were evading MWBE requirements. The RSMP incorporated state law which requires contractors working on public projects to meet certain minimum diversity standards when hiring subcontractors. As such, all contractors working on the RSMP were required to use good faith efforts to subcontract at least 20 percent of their work to Eligible Business Enterprises (EBEs), with 15 percent required to go to minority-owned businesses and five percent to women-owned businesses. Compliance with these requirements was also a condition to being awarded contracts on RSMP and to receiving payment throughout the project.

The investigation by OAG found that some contractors, including the Pike Company, engaged in “pass-throughs,” where contractors would hire non-MWBEs to perform work, but then run the money and paperwork through the MWBE to create the appearance that they performed the work. They would then falsely certify compliance with the project’s diversity requirements to receive payment for work performed.

For example, the Pike Company claimed that a MWBE would provide more than $800,000 worth of doors, frames, and other hardware to fulfill Pike’s EBE requirement. However, the Pike Company ordered the equipment from a non-MWBE but submitted paperwork that gave the appearance that the MWBE supplied the materials itself.

The Pike Company will pay $100,000 to the state, a portion of which will go to the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board (RJSCB), and $25,000 to the whistleblower.

As part of the agreement, the Pike Company is required to submit to extensive, multi-year compliance, remediation, and training. The OAG’s Civil Rights Bureau will actively monitor the contractors’ adherence to these requirements.

“We thank Attorney General James for her dedication to this important issue. The Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board has worked closely with the Office of the Attorney General since this issue came to its attention several years ago,” said Thomas Richards, chair, Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board. “The Board is committed to its diversity plan, which has ensured that minority-owned, women-owned, and disadvantaged business enterprises, as well as women and minorities in the workplace, have meaningful opportunities to participate in the Rochester Schools Modernization Program. As we move into Phase III of the program, we will continue to actively monitor diversity requirements to ensure the plan is implemented.”

Today’s agreement brings the overall recovery secured from contractors related to this project to more than $1.3 million.

The other contractors that violated RSMP’s diversity requirements include:

  • Bell Mechanical ($200,000);
  • Concord Electric Corporation ($350,000);
  • Manning Squires Hennig ($200,000);
  • Hewitt Young Electric, LLC ($160,000);
  • Michael A. Ferrauilo Plumbing & Heating, Inc. ($90,000);
  • Mark Cerrone, Inc. ($25,000);
  • Kaplan Schmidt Electric Inc. ($100,000);
  • Landry Mechanical Contractors, Inc. ($117,000); and
  • Nairy Mechanical, LLC ($12,000).

This case was led by Senior Counsel Sandra Pullman of the Civil Rights Bureau and Assistant Attorney General Maureen Fitzgerald of the Taxpayer Protection Bureau, under the supervision of Civil Rights Deputy Bureau Chief Travis England. The Civil Rights Bureau is a part of the Division for Social Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux. The Taxpayer Protection Bureau is led by Bureau Chief Thomas Teige Carroll and Deputy Bureau Chief Scott J. Spiegelman and is a part of the Division for Economic Justice, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Chris D’Angelo. Both the Division for Social Justice and the Division for Economic Justice are overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

Categories: New York StateNews