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Another PLA-Free Veterans Affairs Project Falls Victim to Crummy Contractor, Is Under Investigation

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Another Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) project is stuck in its tracks after refusing to use a Project Labor Agreement (PLA) for its construction.  This time, veterans in Butler County, Pennsylvania will be the victims of mismanagement.

The VA has halted construction on the $75 million outpatient center to allow the federal government to investigate the prime contractor, VA Butler Partners Co.  

This “special purpose entity” is made up of members of Cleveland, Ohio based Westar Development Corp. and has been part of the project since its infancy.  Under the current deal, VA Butler Partners Co. would manage the VA Butler Health Care Center for the next twenty years with the VA paying $7.6 million in annual rent.   The VA issued a stop work order on June 21st, “based on the initial findings of an ongoing VA Office of Inspector General investigation of the prime contractor and certain company representatives.”

In announcing the stop work order, the agency said:

“VA takes these allegations very seriously and will aggressively pursue any and all legal actions necessary. The stop work order provides formal notice to the contractor to cease work on the contract until further notice. VA will continue to evaluate the allegations to determine the appropriate next actions,” t

The stop work order came two months after federal prosecutors indicted Westar senior vice president Robert Berryhill for mail fraud and related charges. Berryhill was accused of diverting $225,000 in contracts to FBI offices in Knoxville, Tennessee for personal use, including restoring his Corvette.  He did so by creating a fictitious company. After his indictment, VA Butler Partners Co. withdrew their request for $3.2 million in property tax breaks.  

Last week, we relayed the story of an Aurora, Colorado VA project which had fallen flat after refusing to be governed by a PLA. Building Trades officials are dumbfounded about the VA’s constant neglect of PLAs considering they mandate hiring of veterans into construction careers. In addition, PLAs are associated with a host of efficiency gains and quality assurances which would prevent the types of foulups the VA is becoming known for in the construction arena.

For the Butler County VA to move forward, the prime contractor might need to be replaced.  Butler County Commissioner Bill McCarrier told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review that, “The federal government’s not going to let that project die.”

The office of local Congressman Mike Kelly weighed in on the situation in a statement, saying:

“Rep. Kelly has had concerns about the project since the beginning,” the statement said. “Regarding the specific findings, we will give the (inspector general’s) office time to do its job and see what it reports.”


One Comment on “Another PLA-Free Veterans Affairs Project Falls Victim to Crummy Contractor, Is Under Investigation”

  1. My connection to your story;
    I was scheduled to be the Safety Lead at the Butler VA HCC project for Marous Brothers Construction. The company hired me for what I assume was my Degree (Safety and Environmental Management, Slippery Rock University) and also because I am a retired Air Force MSgt. Mr. Berryhill and his crew of merry men have cost me what would have been the first normalcy in my adult life. The greed and obtuse regard for integrity has completely upset my life and the lives of my veteran brothers who have earned the care they would have received. Instead of driving 20 minutes to work I am traveling 2 hours to Cleveland each morning and then again in the evening, and the funny thing is I am grateful I have my job on my current project. I could have been laid off but Marous is trying to do the right thing by me and employee me for as long as they can but this won’t last forever. For the past two weeks I have once again had to start looking for employment (which more than likely will lead me to San Francisco for temp work on a pipeline.) Greed and those illegal activities have cost Mr. Berryhill and Westar extend way beyond a court sentencing. The clinic is delayed indefinitely, so veterans who have earned the care they would have received will have to wait while all this gets sorted out. This absolutely could have been avoided with a simple PLA but instead of having the building enclosed to start the interior of the building the building is closed indefinitely. You can gage a society by the way the treat their old, young and veterans of wars. We are, because of men like Mr. Berryhill and whoever else is implicated in this, failing.

    Thanks for listening
    Deano Trott

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