Friday, June 12, 2009

Feds: Berea contractor paid for part of trip to Vegas, got help with bid and his choice of inspector

The complaint against J. Kevin Kelley and others also alleges that a business executive paid for parts of PO1 and PO2's April 2008 trip to Las Vegas.

Last year, Phoenix Cement of Berea got a $4.6 contract for a concrete job at the new county juvenile justice center. Blaze Construction, which shares an address with Phoenix, got a $2.8 million contract to resurface part of Snow Road in Parma. Blaze also bid on a $36 million general trades contract at the juvenile justice center, but didn't get it.

All three of those contracts are mentioned in the charging document against Kelley, though Phoenix and Blaze are referred to as Business 4 and Business 3.

An executive of both companies, "BE1," is alleged to have spent $4,500 on the Vegas trip "entertaining KELLEY, PO1, PO2, and PO2's travel companion." The document says: "On approximately seven occasions during the April 2008 Las Vegas trip, BE1 gave gaming chips to PO1."

When a problem developed with Blaze's bid on the $36 million contract, the complaint against Kelley alleges that "PO1 and PO2 talked on the telephone to each other and to other County employees concerning the problem with BE1's bid and instructed County employees to research bids, collect documents, contact other County employees, and take other actions with the intent of assisting BE1's companies."

Blaze didn't get the contract. It went to competitor Panzica Construction in April 2008. It got the Snow Road contract in May.

The feds allege that BE1 requested to have a certain inspector assigned to the Snow Road project. They say Kelley managed to make that happen. The charges say Kelley did that at PO1's urging -- to carry out BE1's request to have a certain inspector assigned to the Snow Road project:

KELLEY told PAYNE that PO1 again asked KELLEY if the particular inspector had been assigned to the Snow Road project. PAYNE said, "Why is that a big f-king deal to him [BE1]?" KELLEY responded by telling PAYNE about BE1 losing the general trades contract for the Juvenile Justice Center and mentioning that since PO1 could not help BE1 with the general trades contract, POI said to KELLEY, "I really want to get this done for this guy."

This charge is interesting for what PO1 allegedly did and what he didn't do. The feds say PO1 got part of his Vegas trip paid for by the Blaze/Phoenix official, that he successfully pushed for the inspector to get assigned to the Snow Road project, and that he tried to help Blaze with its bid on the juvenile justice center trades project.

But the trades contract went to someone else. There's no allegation that either concrete contract was steered.* And PO1's defense might easily include pointing to this line:

"It is going to be $35 million [POI] instead of $22 [million]. You going to be able to award it to me if I am low?" PO1 responded, "Yeah."
Here, PO1 could say he is just following the law: the low bidder usually gets a construction contract.

*Update, 6/17: Actually, the charges do suggest PO1 helped the Phoenix concrete bid in some way, but how is not clear. See this post for details. And again, Phoenix was the low bidder.

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