Gilbane /Hunt, the construction manager for Worcester’s new minor league baseball park admitted Friday morning to filing inaccurate reports with the city that overstated the participation of minority-owned businesses in the construction project.
The disclosure follows a GBH News investigation published Thursday that uncovered inaccuracies in Gilbane/Hunt’s reports to the city and found that of more than $100 million in construction contracts awarded for the project, less than 1% went to certified minority-owned subcontractors.
Gilbane/Hunt had claimed that minority businesses had received about $4 million of the construction work, or 4%. On Friday the company filed an amended report to the Worcester Redevelopment Authority, the agency overseeing ballpark construction, showing that minority contractors earned $513,430 on the $101 million new home for the Red Sox minor league affiliate.
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The city and Gilbane/Hunt had set a goal of providing 20% of the construction work to women and minority-owned businesses; earlier this week they told GBH News that they had come close to that goal, with 4% of the work going to minority businesses and 13% going to women-owned companies for a total of 17%.
Friday Gilbane said the actual combined total is about 13.5%.
Neil Benner, a project executive with Gilbane, told the redevelopment authority the company had been relaying figures to the city based on work its subcontractors planned to pass along to minority and women-owned companies, not the actual expenditures with those businesses.
“For various reasons, we have had some attempts at goals by our [subcontractors] that did not work out for various reasons,” Benner said. “And that's the reason why the percentage is lower now than it was at the time, at the time of award.”
Gilbane had not followed up to see if those goals had been met, but issued the reports with outdated information.
"It was an oversight on our part to not properly update,” Benner said. “We should have, and that's what we're doing now.”
The redevelopment authority members did not ask Benner to elaborate on the “various reasons” subcontractors missed those goals.
Redevelopment authority board member David Minasian said it will consider establishing separate goals for women and minority contractors for future projects in the city.
“We realize if you separate those [goals] you're more likely to focus on them and achieve them,” said Minasian. “So, I think that is probably a better practice. And I think we should look at that moving forward for sure.”
Redevelopment authority members Michael Angelini and Tony Tilton expressed frustration with Gilbane/Hunt’s misleading reports.
“Why didn't Gilbane know that they were reporting the wrong numbers? And why didn't we know that they were reporting the wrong numbers?,” Tilton said. “We sit here looking sad and foolish, patting ourselves on the back.”
Angelini said Gilbane/Hunt’s inaccurate reports caused the redevelopment authority to shirk its oversight duties.
“I appreciate your recognition that a mistake was made, but it's an unfortunate mistake. And I think it's unfortunately put us in the position of not as board engaging in the kind of superintendence that is our responsibility,” Angelini said.
Redevelopment authority member Jennifer Gaskin said she was less concerned about how many minority contractors were hired. She said she was more interested in the fact that Gilbane/Hunt reportedly exceeded the project’s workforce hiring goals for minorities, women and Worcester residents.
“My goal ... is that the people who are working and earning a living would be the people in the community that we were worried about or we wanted to promote their participation. And what I'm hearing this morning is that we did achieve that,” Gaskin said. “So, the rest of it to me — it's a lesson to be learned. Yes, we should do better in the future. But to be honest with you, I don't really take that as much of a hit.”
Regarding women and minority contracts on the project, Benner said he’s “confident” in the 13.5% it is now reporting, adding that the number might increase.
“There are changes associated with the ballpark that are not yet represented in these numbers,” Benner said. “And we'll do everything we can to maximize participation by M/WBEs in these.”
Benner did not specify what those ballpark changes might be.
Correction: A previous version of this story incorrectly attributed statements about establishing separate goals for women and minority contractors to WRA Executive Director Peter Dunn. We regret the error.