We were but small potatoes in the overall scope of things when Ulster County was building its jail, originally slated to cost just over $50 million, approved at just over $70 million and finally costing nearer $95 million (not including interest.) Small potatoes that is, in the eyes of our construction contractor, Bovis Lend Lease. That company did much larger projects, like the Federal Courthouse in Brooklyn, Citi Field, the Mets’ new home, the renovation of Grand Central Terminal.
So it comes as a shock, totally shocking, to hear that the company agreed to pay $56 million in fines and restitution, according to The New York Times, “to avoid criminal charges.” The paper goes on to describe an over-billing scheme that apparently is ubiquitous in the construction industry, called “eight plus two.” That is, paying labor foremen, as the Times says Bovis routinely did, for one or two hours of overtime daily that they did not work. That can add up over years.
We don’t know that Bovis practiced this fraud while it was billing Ulster County for the work on the jail. We do know, through the report that a legislative committee prepared on what went wrong on the jail, based on the investigations of John Mavretich, did not do a contractually required ‘constructability review’ on the plans for the jail before they were put out to bid. Such a review, said public works commissioner Harvey Sleight, at a hearing into what went wrong with the project, would have “caught many of the errors to come” and saved many thousands of dollars — for example when the plans called an I-beam to be across the middle of an elevator shaft. But there were no repercussions to Bovis Lend Lease for this failure, and certainly no investigation into whether eight and two was practiced here.
In fact, there were no repercussions to anyone, personally. Sleight was indicted for a minor infraction, subsequently dismissed as beyond the statute of limitations. All else skated on by, and now included in our county budget snugly before any tax cap considerations were applied, is the repayment, with interest, of the bonds used to construct the $95 million jail.
No repercussions, unless you notice that shortly after the report, voters in Ulster County decided to implement a new charter that created the office of county executive, drastically reducing the power of the county legislature, which had created the entire mess.
So, no, the likelihood that we will experience any restitution from Bovis Lend Lease in this settlement is probably nil. Still, we can wonder just how many hours were the foremen getting paid for around here, while working only eight?++