August 9, 2013
Joplin, Mo. – Attorney General Chris Koster today announced that Urban Metropolitan Development, LLC (UMD) of Atlanta has pleaded guilty in the Jasper County Circuit Court to five counts of violating Missouri's prevailing wage law on demolition work following the 2011 Joplin tornado.
UMD will be placed on Missouri's debarment list for one year, meaning the company cannot contract directly or indirectly with any public governmental body for the construction of any public works for that length of time. In addition, as a condition of the guilty pleas, UMD entered into a consent judgment agreeing not to do business in Missouri in the future.
According to Koster, UMD was contracted to demolish three Joplin schools damaged by the May 2011 tornado – Irving Elementary School, Old South Middle School, and Joplin High School. These public works projects came under Missouri's prevailing wage law, which requires that workers be paid no less than the prevailing hourly wage, which is set before a project begins and is based on the county and the type of work.
In December of last year, Attorney General Koster and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson charged UMD with five counts of failure to pay prevailing wage and alleged the company altered copies of checks before submitting them to the state, falsely representing that the company had paid its workers the prevailing wage.
"This Attorney General's office takes prevailing wage violations seriously. Missouri's prevailing wage law is clear and there should be no excuses for violating it," Koster said. "A company hired to help Joplin rebuild took advantage of the situation by knowingly paying workers less than the law required."
Under the plea entered today, UMD pleaded guilty to five counts of violating the prevailing wage law and received the maximum fine of $500 for each count. In addition, UMD agreed to pay $2,500 in civil penalties to the State Schools Moneys Fund. Jennifer Taylor, the UMD executive who is accused of actually altering the payroll records for UMD, has also been criminally charged. She failed to appear in court this week, and a warrant for her arrest remains outstanding.
UMD is the 18th contractor to be placed on the debarment list since 1992. Koster is responsible for more than one-third of those placements – he has prosecuted three contractors for prevailing wage violations during his tenure as Attorney General, and prosecuted four others as Cass County Prosecutor.