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The Employment Law Group,PC. BBB Business Review

Date: May 17, 2018

The media in Washington, DC — and well beyond — paid lots of attention when TELG client Nathan Davidheiser was revealed as the whistleblower who alerted authorities to the use of substandard concrete on the Silver Line, an extension of DC's Metro system that remains under construction. In interviews, including with News4, the local NBC station, TELG principal David Scher said he's pleased that the U.S. Department of Justice has chosen to support Mr. Davidheiser's lawsuit.

Quoteworthy:
"We want to make sure that the Silver Line is fixed, that the concrete works, that the Metro doesn’t collapse sometime in the future."

David L. Scher

[TRANSCRIPT]

News4 interviews David Scher, attorney for Silver Line whistleblower

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(Transcribed by The Employment Law Group)

Jim Handly (anchor): News4 was first to tell you about major problems with bad concrete along the second phase of the Silver Line. Well, today Metro ordered new inspections—and a lawyer representing a whistleblower is speaking exclusively to News4. Our transportation reporter Adam Tuss has the latest from Herndon tonight.

Adam Tuss (reporter): Well, this whole story just got even bigger. Regardless of the fact that the federal government is now involved, now Metro says it wants its own inspection team to come in here and take a look at all these stations and all this concrete to make sure that everything is done properly. This concrete problem along the Silver Line could be a whole lot bigger.

David Scher: It seems to me that if the company is willing to commit fraud here, you know—who knows?

Tuss: David Scher is the attorney representing a whistleblower who first raised concerns about substandard concrete that was being used in the second phase of the Silver Line. He agreed to meet News4 to talk about the case and the whistleblower, whose name is Nathan Davidheiser.

Scher: I would say that Nathan is really pleased that the United States took his case seriously, investigated it and discovered that he was right.

Tuss: Now, potentially larger issues. According to the lawsuit, the wrong type of stone was used in this project. Sources say they don’t know if that will pose future problems.

Now this has all prompted Metro to order an independent assessment of the Silver Line concrete—even though Metro isn’t building this project. Meantime, taxpayer money’s at stake, because potentially hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of bad concrete has to be replaced and repaired in a project that’s still under construction.

Scher: We also want to make sure that the Silver Line is fixed, that the concrete works, that the Metro doesn’t collapse sometime in the future.

Tuss: Do you think that could happen? Are you worried about that?

Scher: Well I’m not worried about it now, because I know that the prime contractor—I know that there’s a fix going to be put in place, so. But I certainly was worried about that at the time we brought the case.

Tuss: For now, Silver Line officials [are] saying the timeline to open the project is on track. But again, more testing is coming. Along the Silver Line, Adam Tuss, News4.

» View story on NBCWashington.com

» Read Mr. Davidheiser’s amended complaint in the case

» Read the U.S. Attorney’s press release about the case

 

[ADDITIONAL COVERAGE]

Feds join whistleblower lawsuit over bad Silver Line concrete

Fox 5 DC (May 16, 2018)

(Transcribed by The Employment Law Group)

Shawn Yancy (anchor): We’re back with an update now to a story we’ve been following since April. The concrete manufacturer working on the Silver Line extension to Dulles Airport knew about problems with the concrete.

Jim Lokay (anchor): According to a lawsuit filed by a whistleblower, the manufacturer apparently falsified data in order to pass inspections. Fox 5’s Cori Coffin has been following this story for us. She’s live in Herndon with more. Cori?

Cori Coffin (reporter): Yeah, here at one of the construction sites. So we’re talking about concrete that’s not inside the tunnel that the trains will specifically be traveling through, but rather in surrounding buildings like this one that you see here. Now, originally the company said that there was a quick fix for this whole thing, and that it would put things back on track, but we’re now learning it could actually be more serious than that.

In April, we told you about three problems discovered with the concrete. One, too much water in the mix, which can lead to cracking. Two, not enough air in the mix as well, making it difficult for freezing water to expand and contract, also leading to cracking. And three, steel mesh not encased enough, which could expose it to air, leading to rusting.

At the time, the general contractor on the project, Capital Rail Constructors, said these issues were found during routine inspections. But according to the lawsuit unsealed today that the Department of Justice is looking into, a whistleblower reported the problems in 2015, saying they could compromise the structural integrity of the concrete.

Nathan Davidheiser worked as a lab technician in Universal Concrete Products quality control division. Upon discovering the issues, he says he was told to falsify data to pass inspection. One text exchange from quality control manager Andrew Nolan reads, “They will reject those panels. We have to change the data.”

Davidheiser also says the company knowingly used stone that was not approved for the concrete mix, which could have “potentially deleterious,” or dangerous, effects.

[To Man #1] Would you ever get on if you thought concrete might be not structurally sound?

Man #1: Absolutely not. If it’s not good, I’m not getting on it.

Coffin: We spoke to several people on the Silver Line today.

Man #2: That’s definitely a matter of concern. I mean, we —

Woman #1: We are freaked out right know. I mean, we didn’t know about that.

Coffin: It remains to be seen if the bad concrete will have to be taken out, and if that would push the project’s completion date back.

Woman #2: The public safety should come first. So if the project takes longer, then it’ll take longer.

Coffin: As for those accused of duping Metropolitan Washington Airport Authority —

Unseen Woman: The company needs to be fired. They need to be let go.

Coffin: Now, UCP is accused of defrauding taxpayers and also retaliation against employees. Tonight, nobody named in the lawsuit, including the whistleblower himself, are speaking at this point. We do know that the Department of Justice is intervening in this case, which basically means that they’re taking over on behalf of the whistleblower. Usually in these case it’s because they found enough merit with the case.

Live in Herndon, Cori Coffin, Fox 5 local news.

» View story on Fox5dc.com

 

Concrete for Silver Line stations is flawed, test results were doctored, whistleblower says

Excerpted from the Washington Post (May 17, 2018)

Concrete panels for several of the new Silver Line stations do not meet safety or reliability standards and were made by a company that doctored testing records and used unapproved materials to mask the flaws, according to a whistleblower lawsuit unsealed Wednesday in federal court.

The suit, filed in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia, alleges officials at Universal Concrete Products, based in Stowe, Pa., knew the precast concrete panels they manufactured were defective and could be prone to cracking and water erosion that could affect structural integrity. When an employee in their quality assurance department flagged the problem, the suit alleges, he was told to ignore it and later instructed to fake test data to cover up the problems.

The company made more than 1,500 panels that were used to construct exterior walls at five of the six new Silver Line stations that are part of the extension to Dulles International Airport and into Loudoun County.

Virginia and the federal government announced on Wednesday that they were joining the suit over the project being managed by the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.

The whistleblower, Nathan ­Davidheiser, filed the suit in March 2016, claiming he was fired from his job as a quality control lab technician at Universal Concrete Products after he continued to question problems with the company’s manufacturing process. He filed his complaint under the federal False Claims Act, which allows whistleblowers to recover a portion of any money the government recovers on behalf of defrauded taxpayers.

» View full story on WashingtonPost.com

 

Silver Line concrete problems flagged a year earlier in whistleblower lawsuit

Excerpted from WTOP.com (May 16, 2018)

WASHINGTON — A whistleblower lawsuit was filed more than a year before the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority and contractor Capital Rail Constructors say they learned that defective concrete panels were installed at five new Silver Line stations.

Virginia and the federal government are joining the False Claims Act and Virginia Fraud Against Taxpayers Act lawsuit, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia said Wednesday afternoon.

The suit was filed under seal in March 2016 by Nathan Davidheiser, who worked for Universal Concrete Products, the subcontractor that produced the faulty concrete panels. Davidheiser said he was directed by his employer to lie about quality control tests.

The Airports Authority and the main construction contractor, Capital Rail Constructors, reiterated to the authority board Wednesday though that they only recognized problems with the concrete panels in the first part of 2017 — a year after the lawsuit was filed.

The lawsuit triggered an investigation by the FBI and U.S. Department of Transportation Inspector General, because federal money was spent in the second phase of Silver Line construction.

» View full story on WTOP.com

 

Feds Join Whistleblower Lawsuit Over Bad Metrorail Concrete

Excerpted from U.S. News & World Report (May 16, 2018)

McLEAN, Va. — The Justice Department and the Virginia attorney general’s office are jumping in to a whistleblower’s lawsuit alleging a subcontractor deliberately used bad concrete on a $2.6 billion project to extend the D.C. region’s Metrorail system to Dulles International Airport.

The whistleblower, Nathan Davidheiser, is a former lab technician at Universal Concrete Products Corp. in Stowe, Pennsylvania. He filed his lawsuit in 2016 and says the company had him falsify records when testing showed the concrete failed quality tests. Specifically, the concrete’s air content was too low, making it more likely to crack, according to the suit.

The lawsuit includes copies of text messages ordering him to falsify test data on the concrete’s air content.

On Wednesday, the Justice Department announced it was joining the lawsuit, along with Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. The decision to join the lawsuit indicates authorities believe the whistleblower’s allegations are credible.

» View full story on USNews.com

» This coverage originated with the Associated Press and also was carried by outlets including the Philadelphia Inquirer, the Chicago Tribune, the Seattle Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Miami Herald.

 

DC Metro To Investigate Concrete Used On $1.8B Rail Project

Excerpted from Law360 (May 17, 2018)

Washington, D.C.’s transit authority will investigate the condition of concrete panels used in the ongoing $1.8 billion Silver Line rail project, the agency’s CEO said Thursday, days after a federal court unsealed a False Claims Act suit accusing a subcontractor of covering up shipments of subpar concrete.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said whistleblower Nathan Davidheiser’s allegations against Universal Concrete Products Corp. prompted his order that an independent contractor check out the panels. The Silver Line will connect the city’s existing rail system to Washington Dulles International Airport, and while the transit authority isn’t building the project, it will assume control when the line is finished. The first section of the extension opened in 2014 and the second, and final, phase is currently under construction.

“Based upon the recently unsealed federal complaint against Universal Concrete Products, it’s necessary for Metro to look at this with our own independent contractor to ensure whatever remedies are applied to the concrete are ultimately safe for our passengers and our employees,” Wiedefeld said. “Let me be clear: Metro is committed to ensuring that any remedies are paid for by those responsible, and that taxpayers and Metro customers are protected.”

The complaint, filed in March 2016 and unsealed Monday, claims Universal Concrete, its President Donald Faust, and its quality control manager, Andrew Nolan, intentionally made and shipped concrete that didn’t meet contractual specifications and could fall apart quickly. Davidheiser, who worked in the company’s quality control division, also said he and other employees were told to falsify data to hide problems from the government.

» View full story on Law360.com (subscription required)

 

Federal Government Joins Whistleblower’s Lawsuit Over Faulty Concrete in Silver Line Project

Excerpted from Reston Now (May 17, 2018)

The Justice Department and the Virginia attorney general’s office are joining a whistleblower’s lawsuit that accuses a subcontractor of intentionally using defective concrete for the $2.7 billion Silver Line project.

In 2016, Nathan Davidheiser, the whistleblower, filed the lawsuit against Universal Concrete Products Corp., alleging the company urged him to falsify records when concrete failed quality testing. Results showed concrete was prone to cracking and water erosion, according to the lawsuit.

The documents in the case, which include text messages ordering falsification of data, were unsealed Wednesday.

“Make something up and make sure it’s a good number,” one supervisor said, according to the lawsuit.

» View full story on RestonNow.com

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