$200K settlement secured following Rochester contractor faking diversity metrics for billion-dollar project

ABC50 NOW

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ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WWTI) — An agreement has been reached following a contractor falsely claiming to meet New York State diversity requirements.

New York Attorney General Letitia James has announced that an agreement with Rochester-based contractor Bell Mechanical Contractor, Inc., has been reached. According to James, the company falsely claimed diversity requirement eligibility to win and maintain contracts on the Rochester Schools Modernization Program. The Program has been noted as the largest public project in Rochester’s history, and contracted at $1.2 billion.

According to James, New York State and local law requirements state that contractors must meet minimum diversity standards for the hiring of Eligible Business Enterprises as sub-contractors.

As adopted by the Rochester Joint School Construction Board, the Rochester Schools Modernization Program required contractors to subcontract 20% of their work to EBEs, 15% to minority business enterprises and 5% to women business enterprises.

An investigation conducted by the Attorney General determined that the contractors engaged in “labor pass-throughs,” where contractors would hire non-EBEs to perform work, but then run the money and paperwork through EBEs to create the appearance that an EBE had performed the labor.

The Attorney General stated that these actions were an attempt to “take advantage of” diversity standards.

“Women- and minority-owned businesses are the backbone of the state of New York,” said Attorney General James. “The diversity standards put in place by local and state governments exist to provide equal opportunities to New York businesses, but those standards cannot be effective when companies like Bell Mechanical attempt to game the system.”

Following the investigation, Bell Mechanical Contractor, Inc., will be required to pay $200,000 in monetary restitution.

The 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 Elena Goldstein and Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke. The Taxpayer Protection Bureau is a part of the Economic Justice Division, which is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General for Economic Justice Christopher D’Angelo, and the Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and all under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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