- A New York judge Wednesday ordered general contractor Harco Construction to pay for a safety ad campaign as part of its guilty sentence for an April 2015 trench-related worker death, but a Harco attorney said the company will not comply, according to The Wall Street Journal.
- A Harco attorney said the court-ordered, televised and printed English-Spanish public safety announcement campaign is a violation of the company's First Amendment rights and would be equivalent to an admission of guilt.
- Harco, which said it plans to appeal, was convicted last month of second-degree manslaughter and criminally negligent homicide in the death of immigrant worker Carlos Moncayo, who was killed in a trench collapse on a Harco job site. If the company does not pay for the PSA campaign, it faces a maximum fine of $10,000.
The judge could have fined Harco $35,000 but instead chose the alternate sentence of the PSA campaign, DNAinfo reported. Harco attorney Ron Fischetti told the court that the company is innocent and that the blame for the accident should rest with Moncayo's employer, Sky Materials Corp, which is set to go on trial as well for its part in the trench collapse.
Fischetti also pushed back against the industry support for a harsh sentence, alleging that the 22 organization and association letters submitted to the judge were all written by Assistant District Attorney Diana Florence. In one of the letters, representatives from an organization of New York union construction managers and contractors, the Building Trade Employers' Association, said they were "sick and tired" of lawbreaking construction companies like Harco "defining the public perception of how serious and important public and worker safety is to them," according to DNA Info.
State officials called Harco's conviction in June "landmark," and District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr. said that the verdict sent a message to other companies that "managing a project from afar does not insulate a corporation or general contractor from criminal liability."
Cases like these continue to highlight the issue of the disproportionately high number of immigrant construction worker deaths in New York City, as well as heightened scrutiny of general contractors who may not be present on the job site they manage when an incident occurs. Late last year, a New York Times investigation found that the uptick in deaths overall was due to a lack of inadequate safety measures but that immigrant deaths in particular were exacerbated by a culture of fear around their undocumented status.
In an effort to combat unsafe work practices in the city, as well as corruption, Vance started the Construction Fraud Task Force, which he said would tackle the problems that “threaten the integrity of the industry and the safety of the city." The task force investigates "wrongdoing and unsafe practices" at construction sites, including fraud, bribery, extortion, money laundering, bid rigging, larceny and safety violations.