Allegations of Gilbane Public Ethics Violations and Improper Bidding
Over the last 15 years, Gilbane Building Company has been involved in a number of cases involving allegations of government ethics violations or improper bidding for public work. In four of these cases, public officials were charged with accepting improper gifts from Gilbane while the firm was either performing work for their agency or pursuing a contract for work with the agency. As a company, Gilbane itself has only been charged in a couple of these cases, and one was dismissed on a technicality. However, government officials in California, Arizona, Connecticut and Ohio have been terminated, caused to resign, and/or faced civil penalties in connection with ethics scandals involving Gilbane. And in one instance, a former Gilbane executive admitted to lavishing public school district officials with gifts, avoiding felony charges only by agreeing to a plea deal. This trail of public corruption raises serious questions about Gilbane and its methods of procuring public works jobs. The cases include:
- 2012 – Former Gilbane Executive Pleads Guilty in “the Largest Public Corruption Case of its kind in San Diego County.”1 In March 2012, former Gilbane executive Henry Amigable pled guilty to charges that he bought expensive meals, tickets to high profile events, and other gifts for members of the San Diego-area Sweetwater Union High School District to convince the officials to award school construction contracts to Gilbane and later to two other firms.2
According to one press outlet, “Amigable’s expense reports to Gilbane Building Co. show that he brought various Sweetwater officials to [a San Diego fine-dining establishment] at least 18 times, spending more than $8,000 on the officials in the months leading up to Gilbane being unanimously awarded a three year $7.5 million contract.”3
According to the San Diego County District Attorney’s office, other gifts Amigable produced for Sweetwater officials while working for Gilbane in 2006 and 2007 included dinner and drinks at various restaurants; as well as tickets to a San Diego Chargers football game, to two different showings of the musical “Jersey Boys” at the San Diego Civic Center, and to the Rose Bowl football game. The latter allegedly also came with a two-night’s stay for two officials at the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles.4
By pleading guilty, Amigable avoided felony charges of offering a bribe and obtaining a thing of value to influence a member of a legislative body.5 He was sentenced to three-year’s probation, a $1,000 fine and 100 hours of community service.6 In 2014, the Sweetwater school district filed a lawsuit seeking the return of $26 million in taxpayer funds paid to a joint venture of Gilbane and SGI Construction pursuant to construction contracts awarded around the time of Amigable’s alleged illicit gifts.7 In February 2016, a California appeals court denied the motion of Gilbane and SGI to dismiss the case on the ground that the gifts constituted protected free speech and ruled that the school district has “demonstrated a probability of prevailing” on its claim.8
- 2012 – Gilbane Gifts Cited in Phoenix-Area Ethics Scandal. In December 2012, 11 employees of Maricopa Country were placed on administrative leave following an internal investigation revealing that the employees had violated the county’s ethics policies by accepting improper gifts from contracted vendors, including Gilbane.9 Gilbane was at the time constructing a $340 million criminal court tower for the county.10 (In March 2010, Gilbane was awarded a separate $37 million contract to complete the court tower’s interior.11) Five employees resigned, one was terminated and three were suspended in connection with the investigation.12
- 2013 – Florida College Throws Out Gilbane Award after Rival Firm Alleges Improper Bidding. In April 2013, St. Petersburg College in Florida canceled the selection of Gilbane for a $14 million contract to construct a new campus building after rival builder Peter R. Brown Construction, Inc. protested that the college’s president had ignored the recommendations of a college selection committee and personally chosen Gilbane, even though the selection committee had ranked Gilbane’s proposal last out of three bidders.13 The college denied that the bidders had been ranked. Ultimately, a third firm, LEMA Construction, was awarded the job.14
- 2010 – Committee Funded by Gilbane and Other Firms Cited for Illinois Elections Rule Violations. In November 2010, Gilbane was connected with another political impropriety, this time involving election rule citations by the Illinois State Board of Elections. A referendum was passed approving the sale of $168 million in bonds to fund construction and renovations at a Chicago-area community college.15 Gilbane was among the largest donors to the Supporters of College of DuPage, a ballot initiative committee that supported the referendum.16 Gilbane was the construction manger the oversaw the recent completion of the college’s Health and Science Center. Other donors to the group had also done business with college.17 The state elections board ruled that the political committee violated elections rules by failing to disclose its identity on campaign signs advocating for the referendum’s passage.18
- 2005 – Connecticut State Ethics Commission Penalizes Gilbane for Unlawful Gifts. In June 2005, Gilbane agreed to a settlement with the Connecticut State Ethics Commission for unlawful gifts to public officials.19 The commission charged that in 2002, while Gilbane was doing business with the state’s Department of Public Works, Gilbane president William Gilbane, Jr. purchased food, drinks and/or “golf related expenses” for one department employee and bought another department employee food and/or drinks as well as a piece of art.20 One of the department employees was found to have accepted gifts from the company on more than one occasion.21 Under the terms of the settlement, Gilbane agreed to pay a civil penalty of $5,000.22
- 2003-2004 Ohio Ethics Commission Charges Gilbane and State Official in Pay-for-Play Scandal. In 2003 and 2004, the Ohio Ethics Commission charged Gilbane and former Executive Director of the Ohio School Facilities Commission, Randall Fischer, with state ethics violations. In a textbook “pay for play” case, Fischer failed to report gifts worth a total of $1,289 from contractors performing work for his agency; $862 of that $1,289 allegedly came from Gilbane. According to the Ethics Commission, over a period from 1997 to 2002 Gilbane officials provided Fischer with meals, several golf outings and a two-night stay at the Rhode Island home of the company’s president, Thomas Gilbane. During the same period, Gilbane was awarded more than $10 million in no-bid construction contracts approved by Fisher.23 A municipal court judge dismissed the complaint against Gilbane because it was filed too late,24 but Fischer was found guilty of conflict of interest charges and was fined the maximum amount of $1,250 plus court costs.25
Allegations of Wage and Other Labor Law Violations by Gilbane
In a number of instances, workers have filed lawsuits against Gilbane alleging the company violated federal wage and hour laws or other basic workers’ rights. In other cases, subcontractors working under Gilbane on public works projects have allegedly illegally underpaid workers. These cases include:
- 2012 FMLA Lawsuit in MD. In September 2012, a Maryland woman commenced a suit against Gilbane alleging that the company terminated her for requesting leave protected under the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA). The woman claimed she was fired from her position as a quality manager for Gilbane shortly after she requested two days of FMLA leave per week to care for her mother, who had suffered serious injuries in a severe automobile accident and required ongoing care.[xxvi] Gilbane and the woman reached an undisclosed settlement in April 2013.26
- 2012 Wage and Hour Lawsuit in CA. In May 2012, a worker in Santa Clara, California accused Gilbane of wage and hour violations, alleging a range of violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA), California state wage law and the Employee Retirement Income and Security Act (ERISA). The employee claimed that Gilbane regularly required him to work more than 8 hours in a day or more than forty hours per week, without paying proper overtime. He also claimed that he was regularly denied rest breaks and meal periods required by law, and that Gilbane failed to reimburse him for business related expenses.27 The case was settled in February 2013, without the terms of the settlement being revealed.28
- 2011 Federal Gov. Sues Gilbane for Prevailing Wage Violations and False Claims. In February 2011, the United States government filed a lawsuit against Gilbane and another company on behalf of two workers who alleged that they were not paid prevailing wages for work they performed under Gilbane’s contract for renovations to the National Institute of Health’s (NIH) facilities in Bethesda, Maryland. The Davis Bacon and Related Acts mandate that workers on federally funded construction projects get paid prevailing wages and benefits. The Complaint alleged that prevailing wage violations were widespread at the NIH jobsite. and that Gilbane had made false claims to the U.S. government by submitting bills to NIH for payment which included payroll records that falsely indicated workers on the job had been paid the prevailing wage.29 The workers also allege that they were fired from the job after they raised these concerns and that Gilbane played a part in the terminations.30 As of March 1, 2016, the case was still active against Gilbane.31
- 2014 Prevailing Wage Violations by Subcontractors at Gilbane Project in CA. In an August 2014 annual report to the state’s Department of Industrial Relations, the Trustees of the State University of California reported that three subcontractors had underpaid employees by a combined $32,465 for work performed under Gilbane’s $80.5 million contract to construct a new Center for Science and Mathematics at California Polytechnic State University.32
- 2008 Discrimination Lawsuit in NJ. In June 2008, a New Jersey woman filed a lawsuit against Gilbane claiming that she was fired from her job as a purchasing agent for the company just one week after disclosing to her supervisors that she was pregnant. The woman alleged that her pregnancy was the sole reason for her dismissal, a violation of Title VII of the federal Civil Rights Act and of the New Jersey Law Against Discrimination.33 The lawsuit was settled in September 2009 under a Confidential Settlement Agreement.34
1. www.cbs8.com/story/16444874/da-charges-five-sweetwater-school-officials-in-corruption-case; www.cbs8.com/story/16444874/da-charges-five-sweetwater-school-officials-in-corruption-case; www.theswcsun.com/da-decries-countys-largest-corruption-case/
2. www.sdcda.org/files/South%20Bay%20Corruption%20Case%20Ends%207-2-14.pdf, see page 4.
6. www.sandiegoreader.com/weblogs/news-ticker/2013/mar/01/first-sentencing-in-south-bay-corruption-scandal/; www.sdcda.org/files/South%20Bay%20Corruption%20Case%20Ends%207-2-14.pdf, page 4.
7. www.nbcsandiego.com/news/local/Sweetwater-Seeks-Return-of-26M-from-Contractors–260474171.html; www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2014/may/28/sweetwater-joins-suit-against-contractors/; See also Complaint, Sweetwater Union High School District vs. Gilbane Building Company, et al., filed July 25, 2014.
8. www.courts.ca.gov/opinions/documents/D067383.PDF; www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/2016/mar/02/south-bay-gifts-ruling/
9. www.azcentral.com/news/election/azelections/articles/2011/12/12/20111212maricopa-county-top-engineer-fired-amid-probe.html; www.azcentral.com/news/articles/2011/12/19/20111219maricopa-county-employees-disciplined-after-probe.html#ixzz40N6WV7KX; Investigative Report RE Williams Allegations, Katherine E. Baker, Green and Baker, available at: http://archive.azcentral.com/ic/pdf/kate-baker-gifts.pdf
12. www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20111219maricopa-county-employees-disciplined-after-probe.html; Letters from Maricopa County Assistant County manager Joy Rich to various County employees, December 2011, available at: http://archive.azcentral.com/ic/pdf/1220maricopa-county-employee-outcomes.pdf
13. www.tampabay.com/news/education/college/bid-violations-delay-opening-of-spc-midtown-campus/2115501; www.bizjournals.com/tampabay/news/2013/06/14/st-petersburg-college-midtown-project.html
17. www.dailyherald.com/article/20101125/news/711269925/; Notice to Parties, State Board of Elections, State of Illinois, November 9, 2010, available at: http://edgarcountywatchdogs.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/04/State-Board-of-Elections-complaint-on-PAC.pdf
19. www.ct.gov/ethics/lib/ethics/enforcement_actions/2005-2.pdf, page 2.
20. www.ct.gov/ethics/cwp/view.asp?a=2307&q=423698 — See the note for “Docket No. 2005-3: In the Matter of a Complaint against Scott W. Jellison.”
21. www.ct.gov/ethics/cwp/view.asp?a=2307&q=423698, Docket Nos. 2005-3 and 2005-2.
22. Mark Niquette, “Construction Company Faces Ethics Charge,” Columbus Dispatch, June 11, 2004, accessed via Lexis Nexis; Ohio Ethics Commission press release: http://ethics.ohio.gov/press/archive/2003-07-09.pdf
23. Jon Craig, “Ethics Complaint Filed Past Deadline, Judge Says,” Columbus Dispatch, September 9, 2004, accessed via Lexis Nexis.
25. Complaint_Feather v. Gilbane_09-04-12
26. Settlement Order (Local Rule 111), Feather v. Gilbane
27. Complaint_Mansfield v. Gilbane_5-4-12.
28. Not. of Settlement_Mansfield v. Gilbane_2-22-13
29. “Complaint_US v. Gilbane_2-1-11”, pages 2, 16-18.
30. Ibid., pages 19-20.
31. US v. Gilbane Docket Report.
32. www.dir.ca.gov/LCP/Annual%20Reports%207-1-2013%20to%206-30-2014/The%20Trustees%20of%20The%20California%20State%20University.pdf — See Gilbane’s contract for the “SL Center of Science” and the value of that contract on page 2. On page 3, see the subcontractors cited at the “SL Center of Science” and the amount they underpaid workers.
33. Complaint, Cuevas v. Gilbane
34. Consent Order Dismissing Complaint and Retaining Jurisdiction to Enforce Terms of the Settlement, Cuevas v. Gilbane.