Contractor To Pay $637K For Deficient Work On Bridges

LYNDON, Vt. (AP) — General contractor J.A. McDonald, Inc. has agreed to pay $637,500 to settle allegations of deficient work on federally funded bridge projects in southern Vermont that caused the state to unwittingly present false claims for payment to the federal government, the U.S. attorney's office said.

The company, headquartered in Lyndon Center, has agreed to make the payment to the federal government and state of Vermont to resolve allegations that it violated the federal False Claims Act and the Vermont False Claims Act, the U.S. attorney's office said Monday.

“Public infrastructure projects in the United States must be constructed with care and diligence,” said Jonathan Ophardt, acting U.S. Attorney for Vermont said in a written statement. “When contractors recklessly disregard public safety and squander tax dollars, the United States Attorney’s Office will aggressively investigate and hold them accountable.”

The bridges were on Route 279 in Bennington and Interstate 91 in Guilford. The settlement resolve allegations that between about 2008 and 2010, JAM employees cut or burned multiple sections of reinforcing steel out of the concrete substructures that support the bridges and took steps to conceal the alterations from the Vermont Agency of Transportation, federal prosecutors said.

An email was sent to JAM's attorneys seeking comment.

The federal government and state said that the Vermont Agency of Transportation unwittingly paid JAM for deficient bridge work and presented false claims to the Federal Highway Administration for reimbursement, the U.S. attorney's office said.

JAM also has agreed to adopt a comprehensive ethics and compliance code and a quality assurance/quality control program and to train employees on both. It also has agreed to appoint a corporate compliance officer to ensure that the company complies with the code and program and retain an independent monitor who will do on-site, unannounced inspections on the contractor's work on federal-funded projects and report the inspections to the Federal Highway Administration for three years, according to the U.S. attorney's office.