Rig the Bid

It’s one of the most competitive races for the House of Representatives this year and Democrat Mary Jo Kilroy will do almost anything to get Big Labor to rain money on her behalf – including, perhaps, rig a bid for a union construction company.

The Columbus Dispatch has the story:

Workers for W.G. Tomko Inc. are being blamed for a construction foul-up that undermined a section of the new county ballpark and caused damages of at least $150,000.

But those really to blame are Franklin County Commissioners Mary Jo Kilroy and Marilyn Brown. They ignored their own construction experts’ best judgment, then manipulated the county bid process to reject a well-qualified low bidder and award a plumbing contract to Tomko, all for political reasons.

Tomko, an out-of-state contractor with a shady background, had one thing going for it: It is a union contractor, and the low bidder isn’t. Kilroy and Brown, both Democrats, used the contract award as a political payoff to cement the support of labor as Kilroy runs for Congress.

Tomko workers dug a trench that caused a section of the stadium to sink, but Kilroy and Brown put those workers on the job site.

Before the contract was awarded, ballpark construction manager Turner Construction and owner’s representative Nationwide Realty Investors highly recommended the low-bidding competitor, TP Mechanical Contractors. Awarding the contract to TP Mechanical would have saved private investors and taxpayers $215,000 on the cost of the contract.

To her credit, Commissioner Paula Brooks, also a Democrat, questioned her colleagues’ rejection of TP Mechanical. She said that the county policy that Kilroy and Brown used to justify rejecting TP Mechanical should be a guideline rather than a hard and fast rule.

Kilroy and Brown said that four prevailing-wage-law violations in 2005 disqualified TP Mechanical from bidding on the contract. Those violations added up to a mere $4,000 in wage mistakes in projects for which the entire payroll was $5.3 million.

Yet, Tomko, the winner, previously had been fined $23,000 by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration for four serious safety violations related to an accident that killed a worker in 2006.

Tomko also had failed to pay a worker’s pension while he served in the military in Iraq. In 2007, a Pennsylvania court forced the company to pay $48,568 in pension money and attorney fees in that case.

Tomko lost its president in 2004 when he was sentenced to jail for tax evasion. He had been laundering the bills for improvements to his 8,000-square-foot mansion through his company. The president’s son now runs the company.

When the county’s policy doesn’t weigh those transgressions when awarding contracts, something is seriously wrong with the policy. And with the officials applying it.