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Hawaii: Prison Subcontractor under Scrutiny

Louis Berger, a New Jersey-based engineering firm, was tapped as a subcontractor for the construction of a prison to replace the dilapidated Oahu Community Correctional Center (OCCC), despite having a checkered history of legal troubles and accusations of fraud and corrupt practices.

The improprieties allegedly committed by Louis Berger span nearly a decade and surfaced in 2006 when a former accounting executive filed a whistleblower suit that accused the company of fraud involving the federal government. As a result of that lawsuit, a 2010 deferred prosecution agreement required Louis Berger to pay $18.7 million in criminal fines plus $50.6 million in civil penalties. The company was also placed under federal monitoring.

According to a September 6, 2016 article in the Honolulu Civil Beat, it appeared that neither the Hawaii Department of Public Safety nor the state’s Department of Accounting and General Services had vetted Louis Berger before awarding the firm nearly $1.3 million to assist in replacing the aged OCCC. The project’s general contractor, Architects Hawaii, declined Civil Beat’s request for comment.

“There are certainly some red flags that are raised with the selection of this subcontractor,” said State Senator Will Espero, vice chair of the Senate’s Public Safety Committee. “Architects Hawaii should give us an explanation on why they were chosen, because taxpayer dollars are involved. We need to know that these dollars are spent appropriately and legally.”

PLN has repeatedly reported on problems at OCCC, including medical negligence, wrongful imprisonment, security failures and poor conditions of confinement. [See, e.g.: PLN, May 2016, p.38; Feb. 2015, p.56; Nov. 2011, p.19]. Recently, state officials unsuccessfully tried to exempt the construction of a facility to replace OCCC from an environmental impact review. [See: PLN, Aug. 2016, p.32]. The prison construction project remains ongoing.


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