88°F
weather icon Clear

Company that installed Las Vegas strip bollards to appeal 3-year ban

Updated April 20, 2019 - 9:08 am

A Las Vegas construction company that a state agency found underpaid workers on a bollards installation project on the Strip has been barred from public works contracts for three years.

Muller Construction must also provide more than $92,000 in back pay and $130,000 in penalties for failure to pay prevailing wage to 28 workers who were fabricating bollards in the company’s parking lot, according to a letter from the Nevada’s Office of the Labor Commissioner.

The decision, announced Thursday, contrasts with an audit performed by Clark County in early 2018 that concluded Muller Construction underpaid 14 workers by nearly $3,300, but overpaid 14 by close to $5,500.

In their findings, however, state auditors determined one worker for Muller Construction was owed more than $19,000, according to a copy of the audit obtained by the Review-Journal.

State auditors began the investigation into Muller Construction about a year ago after the Nevada Foundation for Fair Contracting, a nonprofit labor management watchdog that accused the company of underpaying workers, first lodged a complaint with the county. The foundation then argued the county’s subsequent audit into the matter had not been thorough enough.

Robert Kern, a lawyer representing the company, said he would appeal the labor commissioner’s decision, arguing that the agency’s conclusions were improper on at least two fronts. The commissioner didn’t hold a hearing to consider evidence over the disputed assertion that the company’s parking lot acted as a public works site — Kern said it didn’t — and the office missed a deadline for issuing a decision to overrule the county.

“It strikes me as irresponsible and unprofessional and I don’t know why they’re going this way,” Kern said. “This could very well destroy a company completely if it stands, and that’s not something you should do lightly, and certainly not something you should do without evidence.”

An email to the Office of the Labor Commissioner was not immediately returned Friday.

Bollards deal

Muller Construction had been awarded a $5 million deal in June 2017 by the county commission to install hundreds of bollards along the Strip. Bollards are four-foot steel posts rooted into sidewalks to protect pedestrians from vehicles. They are anchored 15 to 18 inches beneath the ground by interconnected, steel frames. They are strong enough to stop a flatbed truck traveling 55 mph, county officials say.

Six months after the contract was awarded, the non-profit fair contracting foundation – a group whose officers are also leaders with a local laborers union – claimed workers were misclassified and not being paid for the construction trades they were performing, which would violate the state’s prevailing wage law.

In response, the county examined the company’s project payrolls and found that some workers were underpaid and others were overpaid. At the time, Kern pointed to an accidental misinterpretation of state administrative code to explain the error.

Muller Construction had completed 10 other county public works projects since 2015 without a prevailing wage violation, county spokeswoman Stacey Welling said.

Still, the county opted to re-bid the project and, in June, awarded Unicon LLC nearly $4 million to install about 600 more bollards. About 1,600 bollards in total have been installed on the Strip by the two contractors, county spokesman Erik Pappa said Friday.

No ulterior motives claimed

Tommy White, chairman of the Nevada Foundation for Fair Contracting and also an official with the Laborers Local 872 union, said he believed the union has a contract with Unicon LLC. It did not with Muller Construction, though he denied those relationships motivated the foundation’s complaints.

“We believe what it does is, it keeps contractors honest,” White said about the labor commissioner’s decision. “It’s not about going after non-union contractors or union contractors; it’s about contractors using taxpayer dollars to do work in our county (and) keeping them honest.”

Muller Construction, however, has accused the union of defamation in state court, saying the allegations about underpaid workers was an effort to stir negativity about the company in the eyes of the public.

The lawsuit remains unresolved and on April 1, the company filed a demand for a jury trial, court records show.

Kern acknowledged Friday, however, that the labor commissioner’s ruling “will be devastating to our case.”

Contact Shea Johnson at sjohnson@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0272. Follow @Shea_LVRJ on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ - Video
Assembly Woman Daniele Monroe-Moreno hosts BBQ to bring the community together to hear about the candidates up for election and for people to gather and have fun.
Democrat Virtual Caucus - Video
Elizabeth Warren visits Las Vegas
Senator Elizabeth Warren made a campaign stop at the East Las Vegas Community Center on Tuesday July 2, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Aaron Ford Speaks About Bill AB431
AB431 is a bill sponsored by Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson to restore the right to vote for formerly incarcerated individuals. Attorney General Aaron Ford spoke at the AM&E Church in North Las Vegas about the bill, on Monday, July 1, 2019. (Mat Luschek/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Right Take: Biden's Racially Questionable Comments
Joe Biden has uttered racially charged statements for years. Now that he’s the frontrunner for the Democrat presidential nomination, he may finally face prolonged scrutiny for them.
Christopher Rufo Discusses Homelessness In The USA - VIDEO
Christopher Rufo discusses homelessness in the United States and how politicians can work to improve conditions for those with drug addictions.
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
THE LATEST
County wants joint meeting on potential funding to CCSD

Clark County commissioners on Tuesday signaled that they were unwilling to commit any dollars from a potential quarter-cent sales tax hike to the school district without first meeting with trustees on a plan and accountability.