WORCESTER, Mass. – Companies behind the construction of Polar Park in Worcester, Mass., will pay millions of dollars to the state after allegedly violating the False Claims Act.
The companies, part of the joint venture (JV) in charge of constructing the baseball stadium in Massachusetts, have agreed to pay $1.9 million in response to allegations made by the Attorney General’s office that the JV misrepresented claims to include women and minority-owned businesses as subcontractors.
The assurance of discontinuance, filed in Suffolk Superior Court, alleges the JV violated the state’s False Claims Act and consumer protection laws by falsely stating participation plans in its bid for the Polar Park project. The JV bid for the role of construction manager at-risk on the project in early 2019. It stated to maximize participation of women and minority-owned businesses and then, once selected to manage the project, misrepresented the status of their participation to the Worcester Redevelopment Authority (WRA) until the project was substantially complete.
As part of the bid, it committed to using “best efforts” to achieve the project’s 20 percent combined participation goal and further stated it would implement a “robust action plan” to ensure these goals were met. Based on the representations in the bid, the WRA awarded the contract. However, once the project was underway, the JV did little to encourage participation on the project and did not track where the project’s spending stood with respect to the 20 percent goal.
Additionally, the contract required the JV to provide monthly updates to the WRA on the status of the spending on the project, however, instead of reporting the real-time status as the project progressed, the JV reported projected values—leading WRA to believe it was achieving 17-18 percent of the participation goal when, in fact, only 11-12 percent of the work was allocated to women and minority-owned businesses.
Under the terms of the settlement, the JV will pay $1.9 million to the state. The Attorney General’s office will return $500,000 to the City of Worcester as restitution, and the city has agreed to use the proceeds of the settlement to promote women and minority-owned businesses’ participation in government contracting. The companies in the JV will each monitor for a three-year period to ensure compliance with all contract requirements and state laws pertaining to the participation on public construction projects.
“Construction companies in Massachusetts must live up to their promises to create opportunities for women and minority-owned businesses on public projects,” says Maura Healey, Governor of Massachusetts, who served as Massachusetts Attorney General until recently. “If a company says that the inclusion of diverse businesses is a priority in an effort to win a public contract, we are going to ensure that they are held accountable for those representations.”