A Gilbane Building Co.-Hunt Construction Group Inc. joint venture has agreed to pay $1.9 million to settle allegations by Massachusetts prosecutors that it falsely inflated participation of woman- and minority-owned subcontractors on a $100-million city-funded minor league ballpark project in Worcester.
Providence, R.I.-based Gilbane and Indianapolis-based Hunt agreed to the payment and to hire independent compliance monitors for three years, under settlement terms with the office of state Attorney General Maura Healey that resolve the federal False Claims Act case.
The terms were filed in state Superior Court on Dec. 21.
Gilbane-Hunt was construction manager-at-risk on the Polar Park project, home to the Worcester Red Sox, a Triple-A affiliate of the Boston Red Sox. The Worcester Redevelopment Authority awarded the joint venture the ballpark, which is city owned, in early 2019 and work began that summer.
The joint venture had a goal of using W/MBEs for 20% of the value of subcontracts on the project. However, it failed to accurately track W/MBE participation until work was nearly complete, according to the attorney general. Monthly progress reports to the city reflected contracted numbers rather than real-time figures.
In one example provided by Healey, a Gilbane-Hunt subcontractor agreed to a 15% W/MBE participation goal but achieved less than 3% participation. The monthly reports to the city still reported the figure at the projected 15%.
In the court filing, state attorneys said Gilbane-Hunt’s commitment to the subcontracting goal was part of the reason it won the contract. In a bid presentation, company executives had highlighted the promised participation of one W/MBE firm, likening it to a “third-base coach” on the project. But the joint venture only contracted with the firm for dumpster rental and “a negligible amount of unskilled labor” by the time the project was substantially complete, according to the attorney general.
“If a company says that the inclusion of diverse businesses is a priority in an effort to win a public contract, we are going to ensure that they are held accountable for those representations,” Healey said in a statement. She now is governor-elect in Massachusetts, set to take office Jan. 5.
The Gilbane-Hunt joint venture “fully cooperated with this investigation,” says John Gallagher, a spokesperson, disagreeing with the allegations. He notes that the settlement does not include any admission of liability.
“The joint-venture team is proud of constructing the Polar Park project and our commitment to diversity, inclusion and driving economic opportunity in the community,” Gallagher says.
Gilbane;Hunt completed the 10,000-seat ballpark on time for the team’s May 2021 home opening game, despite a seven-week work shutdown ordered by the city in 2020 because of COVID-19. It was designed by D’Agostino Izzo Quirk Architects with Janet Marie Smith.
Healey’s office says the joint venture would return $500,000 to Worcester as restitution. City Manager Eric Batista said in a statement that the city would earmark the funds to a city program that promotes W/MBE participation in government contracting.
“Our work to improve government contracting opportunities with under-represented businesses is one of our recent initiatives to ensure our economic development strategy is more equitable and inclusive,” he said.