NAACP: State needs to fire biggest viaduct contractor

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by SUSANNAH FRAME / KING 5 News

Bio | Email | Follow: @SFrameK5

KING5.com

Posted on November 7, 2013 at 11:27 PM

The NAACP is calling on the Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) to take drastic action and terminate a $1.4 billion contract with its biggest contractor on the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement Project.

The civil rights organization is making the demand after a U.S. Department of Transportation investigation found the contractor, Seattle Tunnel Partners (STP), has violated federal regulations by intentionally cutting small, struggling businesses out of work on the project.

“The Washington State Department of Transportation as well as the leadership of this state needs to terminate the contract with STP because their history has been egregious, it’s been documented … At what point is enough enough?” said Gerald Hankerson, president of NAACP's Alaska Washington Oregon State Area Conference. “We can no longer trust them.”

The KING 5 Investigators were the first to expose that STP was failing miserably on the tunnel project in terms of meeting federal requirements to hire disadvantaged businesses.

Because the project is partly funded with federal dollars, the STP contract came with a string attached: 8 percent of the work, $91 million worth, was to go to small, struggling businesses in the area. But public records obtained by KING show only $7 million, less that 1 percent of the contract value, has been paid to small contractors so far.

On Thursday Washington Secretary of Transportation Lynn Peterson said a special investigator is helping WSDOT decide what to do with STP.

"We will take whatever steps are necessary based on his recommendations (including termination of the contract). All options are on the table, but we're reviewing our options, looking at the contract and seeing what applies," said Peterson.

The U.S. DOT report out last week found STP created “artificial barriers” and “hardships” on small businesses and gave the work to much bigger companies instead.  The federal agency also found WSDOT was “hands-off” when they knew what was happening and “failed to intervene.”

"This is a solid piece of evidence that this is happening in Washington state and the concern is this is what's happening across the country," said Dedrick Asante-Muhammad, Sr. Director of NAACP Economic Department.

The U.S. DOT says if WSDOT doesn't fix the problems with STP, the state could lose federal funds for highway projects.

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