Fraud

An audit by Miami-Dade Public Schools of construction payments made to prime and subcontractors in the $1.2 billion general obligation bond project is raising concerns right off the bat.

At least two Black subcontractors have complained that they received letters stating their companies participated in projects in which they did not participate.

Representatives of Al Hill Plumbing and Everett Painting Co. took their concerns to a June 22 meeting of the Small Business Enterprise Advisory Committee. The names of both companies appear in school district records pertaining to construction at Miami Edison Senior High School.

Both Jackie Coleman of Al Hill and Shirley Everett of Everett Painting said at the committee meeting that their companies did not do business on the Miami Edison project with general contractor H.A. Contracting.

Office of Economic Opportunity Officer Ronda Vangates facilitated the SBE committee meeting, which included public comments. 

Vangates explained to committee members that the notice sent to Everett came from B2G Now, the much-debated monitoring and compliance program. The school district purchased it to track payments from general contractors that participate in the bond program to minority and women-owned small business subcontractors.

According to minutes from the June 22 meeting, Coleman noted that she received correspondence from the district’s Office of Management and Compliance requesting confirmation of payment on a GOB project. “Al Hill Plumbing did not participate on the project yet was asked to verify payment,” she said in the minutes.

Everett noted that she received correspondence from the audit department and an email generated by B2GNow requesting confirmation of a payment. She said Everett Painting did not participate on the project, yet was asked to verify payment.

Vangates questioned the women if they participated at the Edison High project with H.A. Contracting Corp. Both said no. Everett stated that if the firm utilized her company to achieve the mandatory goals, it’s fraud.

Ronald Frazier, the former chairman of the SBE Advisory Committee, said the information presented by the two women was concerning to committee members. He wondered about the cause and the extent of the discrepancies.

“[Everett] did not work on those jobs indicated in her correspondence from the district, and wants an understanding of the issue. The same thing with Al Hill Plumbing. They didn't have a contract to work on those projects indicated in their correspondence from the district,” Frazier said. “There may be other subcontractors who have gotten letters but did not come in to get clarification.”

No one from MDCPS administration with knowledge about the audit or the contracts was at the meeting to answer questions. Vangates could not be reached for comment abut the meeting. Neither Everett nor Coleman responded to numerous telephone calls seeking a response.

At the meeting, SBE board member Yoni Markhoff said he hoped the school district attorneys will look at H.A. Contracting “in regards to material breach of contract.” District staff member Luis Garcia, an attorney, said the legal department will respond “if asked to review a potential violation of a material breach of contract.”

THE AUDIT

The school district announced it would launch a review of construction contract payments to prime and subprime contractors of 65 completed GOB contracts issued in the first two years of the bond. 

In a May 17 memo, chief auditor Jose F. Montes-de Oca, said the goal was to verify that that the information on the 65 projects contained in a spreadsheet supplied by the district agreed with data contained in B2GNow.

Montes-de Oca emphasized that his office would not audit B2GNow this go-around, but would do so in the 2017-2018 fiscal year.

The audit would look at sample payments and verify the participation level of each contractor based on the company’s status as a minority or woman-owned business and the value of the payments received.

He wrote that his office also will do a similar analyses of the Norland Senior High School project.

In an email response Tuesday afternoon, MDCPS spokeswoman Daisy Gonzalez-Diego said that Montes-de Oca has not yet completed the audit on the 65 closed projects.

“He is not able to speak about the audit until it is completed. He is taking the report to the September audit committee,” Gonzalez Diego wrote. She explained the process includes reaching out to numerous entities as part of the auditing validation process. 

Gonzalez-Diego said the two women who appeared at the SBE committee meeting in June indicated that they received letters to confirm their participation in two projects, one each, and they did not indicate payment had been discussed.  

She noted that MDCPS does not pay sub-contractors, and that the district is following up with the two women to address their concerns.

B2GNow has been the hot topic at district meetings and within the Black community. The delayed rollout of the compliance software system has sparked criticism from civic and community watchdogs who are still leery about how the school district spends public dollars.

In the B2GNow system, general contractors are to enter the names and payment amounts to subcontractors who worked on the same project. The system then sends notices to the subcontractor to verify the information.

It’s not clear how long H.A. Contracting has participated in the school district’s construction program. A check of state records shows that H. A. Construction is based in Doral. The company president is Henry Angelo III.

No one at the company’s office would respond to a Miami Times phone call. An employee answered the telephone, but immediately hung up.