- New York Attorney General Letitia James has charged two former managers of a World Trade Center electrical contractor with felony bribery in a "pay-to-play" scheme engineered to help the contractor secure work at the project.
- James alleged that, from September 2015 through June 9, 2017, two former employees of Delaware-based Hatzel & Buehler Inc. — Paul Angergame and Michael Garrison — paid off James Luckie, a former electrical manager at Cushman & Wakefield, with more than $17,000 in expensive gifts like sports tickets, a golf trip to Florida and on-demand luxury car service, in exchange for special treatment and access to confidential project information about the reconstruction of the World Trade Center. The owner of the site, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, hired Cushman & Wakefield to manage portions of work, including electrical, at the project.
- James also charged the three with using more than $1 million of Port Authority funds, from January 2016 through May 2017, to pay seven unqualified electricians to work at the project, all hired based on personal relationships. This, James said, could have had dire safety consequences. If convicted, Angergame, Garrison and Luckie each face up to 15 years in prison.
While the commission of crimes like these is not rampant in the construction industry, they occur far too often. In fact, some public agencies, as well as private developers, have started using integrity monitors to minimize the chances that contractors will engage in corrupt activities. This practice is particularly prevalent on public projects where a contractor or subcontractor has been accused or found guilty of unethical behavior related to contracting.
In fact, the Port Authority directed general contractor AECOM Tishman to hire an integrity monitor for all Port Authority work after allegations of overbilling prior to AECOM's purchase of Tishman Construction.
Owners who want to use an integrity monitor typically turn to a third-party industry expert to keep track of billings, material orders, subcontractor payments and any other areas of the contractor's processes that might be vulnerable to corruption.
Although being forced to use an integrity monitor might be frustrating for some companies when an owner demands it on private projects, especially if there aren't any allegations of previous wrongdoing, some would do well to look at the situation as an opportunity to refine their in-house policies and procedures. This is because, usually, as part of the integrity monitoring service in those circumstances, the monitor will sit down at the start of the engagement and review the contractor's processes, making suggestions for improvements along the way.