Needham school contractor accused of fraud

Staff reports

A laborer’s union has accused a construction company of deliberately withholding information from Needham officials to better its chance of getting approved to bid on the $21 million High Rock project.

The New England chapter of the Laborer’s International Union of North America plans to file a complaint against TLT Construction this week, saying the company failed to disclose information about certain legal proceedings when it submitted prequalification papers to the town in September.

“They committed fraud, and Needham wants to hire them again,” said Paul Goodrich, a regional organizer for the union.

The complaint comes just over a week after the laborer’s union won a similar case against TLT Construction for a prequalification form filed with the town of Barnstable.

TLT Construction, however, plans to appeal the decision, according to CEO Thomas Kostinden.

At issue in both cases is whether TLT intentionally omitted information about legal proceedings in its prequalification papers. Legal proceedings are one of 15 subcategories used by prequalification committees to determine potential bidders’ eligibility.

The laborers’ union has accused TLT of omitting a $1,170 fine it received from the state for failing to submit payroll affidavits while working on Needham High School.

The company mentions the citation in prequalification forms submitted to the town of Lexington on July 13, but omits it in forms filed to the town of Needham two months later, on Sept. 12.

Kostinden said he wasn’t familiar with the particular form, but said the company wouldn’t have intentionally sought to defraud the town.

“You have to keep in mind a lot of things change from time to time,” he said. “What is reported in any particular period could change in another period.”

It’s not clear whether the citation would have changed Needham’s decision to prequalify TLT for bidding on the High Rock project, but town construction manager Steve Popper noted the company received a “low” score on the legal proceedings subcategory.

In the Barnstable case, Assistant Attorney General Brian O’Donnell found TLT defrauded the town by omitting 34 separate legal proceedings in its application submitted in March. TLT included information about the proceedings when it filed forms with the town of Manchester last November.

In his decision, O’Donnell said the company intentionally defrauded Barnstable.

“The circumstantial evidence presented here leads to an inference that TLT was seeking to enhance its chances of being prequalifed by presenting itself in a more favorable light that it would be by a more candid disclosure,” O’ Donnell wrote in the decision.

Because of the decision, TLT has lost the right to bid on the Barnstable project.

Harry Pierre, spokesman for the attorney general, said it would be “premature” to compare the Needham and Barnstable cases, but that any omission, no matter how small, is a violation of the law.