After Contractor’s Guilty Plea Groups Call on NCDOT to Terminate Bypass Contract
CHARLOTTE, N.C – Three citizens groups today called on the North Carolina Department of Transportation (“NCDOT”) to terminate its contract for the $850 million Monroe Bypass after the president of one of the contractors pleaded guilty to federal criminal fraud charges. Carl Andrew “Drew” Boggs, the President of Boggs Paving Inc., pled guilty today in the federal district court for the Western District of North Carolina. Mr. Boggs is the last in a series of Boggs Paving executives to plead guilty to the charges.
Boggs Paving and its executives were first placed under criminal indictment in July, 2013 when the Federal Bureau of Investigations uncovered the company had engaged in a multi-million dollar scheme involving the fraudulent use of a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise (“DBE”), Styx Cuthbertson Trucking, Inc. The indictment stated that the alleged criminal acts were “continuing through the date of [the] Indictment” and thus included all contracts bid prior to that date.
The contract for the $850 million Monroe Bypass, which was signed well before July, 2013 was one such alleged criminal act. The contract explicitly listed Styx Cuthbertson Trucking, Inc. as a DBE sub-contractor and stated that Styx would be performing almost $3 million worth of trucking work on the costly- toll highway project. The criminal allegations set out by the FBI and U.S. Department of Justice make clear that this level of work is well beyond the small company’s capacity.
Subsequent to the indictment last year, three groups, Clean Air Carolina, the Yadkin Riverkeeper and the North Carolina Wildlife Federation, who have long served as public watch-dogs on the $850 million toll highway project, asked NCDOT to terminate its contact with the indicted parties. NCDOT, however, took the reverse approach. Not only did the department decide to continue its contract with the alleged criminals, but it continued paying Boggs monthly stipends of hundreds of thousands of tax-payer dollars. These stipends continued despite the fact that work on the Bypass had been terminated when a federal appeals court ruled that NCDOT had not been honest in its environmental review of the toll highway project and sent it back to the agency for further analysis.
At one time, NCDOT even issued a series of taxpayer-funded payments reimbursing Boggs Paving employees for manufacturing supposed-community support for the controversial toll highway-project. Boggs was paid to put together a petition, a website and other pro-bypass propaganda that touted imagined benefits of its $850 million construction. The statements ran counter to NCDOT’s own review of the bypass which determined that the project is unlikely to generate significant new growth in Union County and will do nothing to improve existing congestion on U.S. 74. When the watch-dog groups brought these payments to the attention of the press they were ultimately returned to NCDOT.
Now that all Boggs Paving executives have pled guilty to the criminal fraud charges, the watch-dog groups are renewing their plea for NCDOT to terminate its contract with Boggs and its affiliates, the Monroe Bypass Constructors. NCDOT currently does not hold the permits necessary for construction of the expensive toll-highway and therefore has sufficient time to find a contractor whose officials have not pleaded guilty to highway-related crimes to fulfill the work if and when the Bypass is allowed to proceed.
The Southern Environmental Law Center is a regional nonprofit using the power of the law to protect the health and environment of the Southeast (Virginia, Tennessee, North and South Carolina, Georgia, and Alabama). Founded in 1986, SELC's team of almost 60 legal and policy experts represent more than 100 partner groups on issues of climate change and energy, air and water quality, forests, the coast and wetlands, transportation, and land use.