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posted: 5/28/2013 6:11 PM

Legal trouble for contractor approved by District 214

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Northwest Suburban High School District 214 has approved a contract for more than $90,000 worth of work with a local contractor who is facing felony charges of theft of government property and mail fraud.

The business, North Suburban Asphalt Maintenance, is also finishing a two-year suspension that prevented them from getting any Illinois Department of Transportation contracts.

On Thursday, the Niles-based company was awarded a $93,214 contract for seal coating, crack filling and striping at District 214 parking lots through a unanimous board vote. The bid was one of several to be approved as annual summer construction projects are scheduled to get under way soon.

Documents received by the Daily Herald show that North Suburban and its owner have been accused of not performing the work they were contracted for, not paying employees the legal wages required for publicly-funded projects, falsifying documents and contracts and being unresponsive to municipalities that have contracted them for services.

In September 2011 the village of Hoffman Estates rescinded its contract with the company for work on the Sears Centre Arena parking lot because North Suburban was unresponsive to staff inquiries and said they didn't have the ability to do the scope of the project, which was more than $200,000 worth of work, according to village documents.

In November of that same year, the village of Addison terminated a contract with North Suburban Asphalt for nonperformance, according to village documents. The village had approved a contract with the company in July, but by November the vendor had not performed any of the work and "all attempts to reach the vendor failed to get a start date."

Illinois Department of Transportation Chief Procurement Officer Bill Grunloh issued a two-year suspension for North Suburban Asphalt starting on June 8, 2011, that he said was due to workforce violations. The suspension prevents the company from "participating on any contract awarded by or requiring approval or concurrence of the Illinois Department of Transportation."

On Oct. 18, 2012, Attorney General Lisa Madigan announced felony charges against the company's owner, Alan M. Harris, 46, of Niles.

Harris was charged with theft of government property and mail fraud for contracts involving the villages of Buffalo Grove, Glenview, Mount Prospect, Palatine and Volo, in addition to public works projects with Ogle County and Stevenson High School in Lincolnshire.

According to a release from Madigan's office, an investigation uncovered an alleged scheme where Harris reportedly forced his employees to give him money out of their paychecks each month. The kickbacks violate the Illinois Prevailing Wage Act, which says employers must pay workers fair and honest wages for publicly funded projects, Madigan said.

According to Madigan's office, Harris repeatedly submitted falsified statements to local agencies stating he was paying his employees at a higher rate than he actually was.

On Tuesday, the attorney general's office said the case against him is still pending.

Earlier this month the College of Lake County put a sealcoating contract with North Suburban on hold because of the indictment, according to published reporters. The sealcoating was to be at the college's Southlake Campus in Vernon Hills.

North Suburban Asphalt Maintenance declined to comment Tuesday on the legal issues at the company and Harris did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

District 214 spokeswoman Venetia Miles said Tuesday the district is reviewing the information and conducting its own investigation, but hasn't made any decisions yet about how to proceed.

Board President Bill Dussling said the District 214 staff vets companies that submit bids for projects and then recommends the board approve the lowest bidder who can handle the scope of the project. Board approval is the final step in the process, but Dussling said he doesn't know if the board will take further action in this instance.

"I'll be asking some questions," he said.

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