VTrans inspects 15 bridges in southern Vermont after whistleblower report

The East Road bridge over Route 279 in Bennington.

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A Lyndon Center contracting company is ponying up $637,500 to resolve allegations that it executed slipshod work on bridges in Guilford and Bennington, and then covered it up.

The Office of the United States Attorney for the District of Vermont announced Monday afternoon contractor J.A. McDonald Inc. has agreed to pay the money to the federal government and the state of Vermont, regarding alleged breaches of the federal False Claims Act and and the Vermont False Claims Act.

The settlement is in connection with the federally funded construction of several bridges on Route 279 in Bennington and on Interstate 91 in Guilford. Between 2008 and 2010, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said JAM employees altered some components of the bridges by cutting or burning out reinforcing substructures that support the bridges; later, JAM employees concealed the alterations from state Agency of Transportation officials.

Reimbursement for the substandard work constituted the false claims, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

In addition to agreeing to paying the settlement, JAM has also agreed to adopt an ethics and compliance code and training; a quality control program; to appoint a compliance officer; and to retain an independent monitor, to spot-check work for the federal government for the next three years.

“Public infrastructure projects in the United States must be constructed with care and diligence,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Jonathan A. Ophardt in a statement. “When contractors recklessly disregard public safety and squander tax dollars, the United States Attorney’s Office will aggressively investigate and hold them accountable.”

The settlement does not constitute an admission of liability by JAM nor a concession by the U.S. Attorney’s Office or the state that the claims asserted are not well-founded.

This case was investigated in partnership with the Vermont Attorney General’s Office and the Vermont Agency of Transportation. Support was provided by the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the Federal Highway Administration.


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