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Friday, July 19, 2024 | Back issues
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Wage Theft Alleged in New LA Animal Shelter

LOS ANGELES (CN) - Contractors that built an animal shelter under a $9.5 million city bid stole almost $250,000 in wages from workers, Los Angeles claims.

Mackone Development and subcontractors Pak's Cabinet, Lectrfy, Southern California Steel, KCC General Construction, King Wire Partitions and Nader Construction are named as defendants to the complaint filed Thursday in superior court.

City Attorney Mike Feuer said at a City Hall hearing that the contractor and six subcontractors underpaid 50 workers.

Some workers earned as little as $8 an hour, even though the state mandates $49 an hour for construction work, the city said in a statement.

Mackone Development said Feuer's lawsuit is "false, "reprehensible" and "unsupported" by the facts.

Feuer had already "agreed in writing that Mackone Development was not responsible for the alleged underpayments," the firm said in an email.

"It is irresponsible for the city attorney to make such allegations about a project that has won accolades and praise from city officials," Mackone said, adding that it was confident it "will be cleared of any alleged wrongdoing."

Feuer called the wage theft "reprehensible."

"There are some basic rules in our society that everyone expects they can live by. Among those is that when you put in an honest day's work you deserve pay for that day," Feuer said. "That principal is not just a common cultural idea, it's enshrined in our law."

Without getting into specifics about vetting process for awarding city contracts, Feuer said simply that they go to the lowest bidder.

"When not everyone is going to be paid what they are entitled to, they [the contractors] can underbid others," Feuer said. "That means other bidders are in a less competitive position when they bid."

Workers broke ground on the South Los Angeles Animal Care Center in 2010, and finished the 68,000-square-foot facility 2013. Taxpayers funded the entire project.

The seven contractors allegedly covered up the wage theft by submitting fake documentation and withholding contributions for benefits. They also instructed employees to lie to inspectors and sign bogus declarations, the city says.

Los Angeles wants the contractors to pay restitution to the workers. It also seeks a permanent injunction barring them from bidding or working on public contracts with the city, and $2,500 civil penalties for each infraction.

The complaint alleges unfair competition, and false advertising law.

Assistant City Attorney Tina Hess, Deputy City Attorney Jessica Brown, Deputy City Attorney Jeremy Berzon and Deputy City Attorney Colleen Courtney are prosecuting the case.

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