Zurik: Plaq. school contractor files complaint against HOV Services

Zurik: Plaq. school contractor files complaint against HOV Services
Contractor Pete Vicari
Contractor Pete Vicari

HARVEY, LA (WVUE) - An international company that's made millions of dollars in Plaquemines Parish overseeing school board construction is now facing a complaint filed with the La. State Licensing Board for Contractors. The complaint alleges HOV Services violated state law when they bid on the Plaquemines contract.

The contract for project management will pay HOV Services more than $20 million by the time it expires.

When we told Pete Vicari, the general contractor on the project to build the new Belle Chasse Primary Pre K-1 School, that HOV had already been paid $19.5 million, he replied, "Say what? I'm in the wrong business."

This long-time contractor told us HOV's price is way above the norm. "My gut's about ready to open up," he said. "I'm sick to see that the government… this waste."

HOV has billed $120 an hour for an administrative assistant, $180 for a scheduler.

"I couldn't get away with that," Vicari told us in October. "Not a contractor in this city could charge those rates and get away with that."

Now Vicari has filed a complaint with the State Licensing Board for Contractors - not about how much HOV has been paid, though. He says the firm was not licensed when they bid on the job.

Every contractor that bids or works on a job worth more than $50,000 has to have a license.

"I read the law," Vicari says in a recent interview. "[They] have to have a license before they bid the job, just like all contractors do."

When we asked the licensing board if a project or construction manager, overseeing or supervising a job, has to be licensed by the board - they answered "yes." HOV's contract lists the firm as a "construction manager." And we asked if they had to have a license when bidding on a job; again, the board responded "yes."

According to the board's website, HOV received its license on September 29, 2008. But they submitted their bid on April 28, 2008, and signed the contract a month later.

"They did not have a license when they even bid the job, much less when they signed the contract and were actually performing work," Vicari says.

But there's more. HOV also held a contract with the Recovery School District for construction management. That contract began in November 2007. For the length of it, it appears HOV never held a license with the state board.

Vicari sent the licensing board a complaint letter. He expects a response from the board soon.

The contracting board wouldn't comment to us on the specifics of this case or the investigation. But they said, if found guilty, the penalty is 10 percent of the total contract cost.

"What have I worked for?" Vicari wonders. "What [has] every contractor around here worked for, to do their job right, who follow all the laws of the state of Louisiana? And they allow people that they can get away with this? This is not fair."

We asked HOV Services to respond to this report and the Vicari complaint, and the company sent us this statement Tuesday:

The professional services that HOV Services has provided in Louisiana do not require a state contractor's license. The nature of the work does not rise to the level of “contractor” as defined by Louisiana's Contractors Licensing Law. HOV Services did not have direct authority over or responsibility for the performance of the General Contractor or subcontractors.

Neither the request for proposal issued by the PPSB, nor the support provided to the Louisiana Department of Education/RSD, required that the service provider have a Louisiana state contractor's license.

Even so, as a measure of assurance after the company was awarded the PPSB contract, HOV Services requested and received a contractor's license.

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