Firm angling for Los Osos project fails the smell test in New Orleans

March 14, 2010

The engineering firm on track to be San Luis Obispo County’s choice to oversee the multi-million-dollar Los Osos wastewater project is the subject of a new scathing report by the inspector general of New Orleans. [Times-Picayune]

The 28-page report claims that MWH Americas, Inc. has overbilled the city of New Orleans repeatedly, while their critical post-Katrina recovery work lags behind. The report arrived on Mayor Ray Nagin’s desk the same day his capital projects administrator, who had been warning for months about problems with MWH, resigned.

Specifically, the inspector general’s report accuses MWH of overbilling the city of New Orleans on everything from theater tickets, a flight to Las Vegas, Christmas presents, and the rental of a corporate apartment–items with no apparent link to the recovery work.

News reports also indicate that MWH’s contract with New Orleans allows the company to add 23 percent on to the cost of expenses– which, by last June, accounted for nearly $250,000 of $1.3 million in billed expenses.

At the same time, MWH has racked up fees far faster than its rate of progress on capital projects. An internal city analysis found that MWH had billed for approximately 118 percent of the actual value of its work through last July, accounting for nearly $3 million in billing overages.

The new report continues to fuel criticism among Los Osos residents who oppose hiring MWH to oversee their new wastewater project.

In an email to CalCoastNews,  Gail McPherson of the Los Osos Technical Task Force indicated she is asking to meet as soon as possible with county Board of Supervisors chair Frank Mecham to discuss the New Orleans report.

MWH appears to have the inside track with the county to develop the collection system and the treatment plant for the upcoming $165 million Los Osos sewer system, despite previous controversy in New Orleans and Cape Coral, Florida.

Critics say the company is favored unfairly by county Public Works director Paavo Ogren, who worked for MWH before joining the public sector.


35 Comments

  1. quietbay says:

    This new string is meant to educate the readers. There have been a lot of comments going back and forth between Alon and I so I’ll just summarize my points and elaborate.

    The Inspector General’s report from New Orleans gives tremendous insight into MWH’s business practices. Unlike the investigation going on in Cape Coral, FL, the evidence against MWH is more damning. The contractor has shown the ability to exploit a natural disaster (Hurricane Katrina) by engaging in profiteering. Professor Gary Clark of Dillard University in New Orleans called the report an example of “disaster capitalism.” In the wake of this report, MWH has offered no timely comments of rebuttal or a commitment to repairing their image.

    Having said that, this has absolutely nothing to do with the formal complaint filed by Lisa Schicker in early 2009 although the complaint targets MWH’s overbilling, false claims and backdated contracts when they had a working relationship with the LOCSD. Alon feels that the complaint belongs in the context of this report — which he admitted to not reading — because the hours of public testimony dedicated to the complaint have already delayed the County sewer process extensively. Adding New Orleans to the mix would be even more disruptive to the process, which, in my opinion, is a claim that needs a lot more fine-tuning since it’s overtly ambiguous.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 6 Thumb down 8

    • Mythbuster says:

      The New Orleans report also gives tremendous insight into the ineptitude and failure of local government which accepted and monitored their contract with MWH. Read up on your history, New Orleans doesn’t quite do business the same as most other cities in America. That understanding needs to be in this discussion.

      Aside from that, you may quote “disaster capitalism,” but what about the “disaster incitement” that the No-Sewer crowd has used repeatedly, as the delays it engendered has caused the sewer to increase in cost from year to year? Think that hasn’t had an economic impact?

      quietbay says, “In the wake of this report, MWH has offered no timely comments of rebuttal or a commitment to repairing their image.” As if they should rattle off defenses as fast as Lisa and Gail contrived this unsubstantiated vendetta of mistrust and suspicion.

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

  2. Alon_Perlman says:

    Yada Yada get a life, Fresh string Cheese.

    You are booring, Do you want me to start writing your portion of a debate only you are interested in continuing? And all that misquoting- You vant I should be defending vat were not my words after they come out of your gonnifer mouth?
    And you ARE sounding more like the “sprout of the coast”, what Irony is in that? (Cuse you yamment)
    Gail’s plan or lack thereof is no Grand Conspiracy
    Just a minor example of the “Tyranny of little Minds”
    I AM ONLY INTERESTED IN LOS OSOS. I don’t have to read the report, MY points are not dependant on it. In fact you may not have noticed , but this isn’t the Congleton show and we are not following “Robert’s rules of order”, or “Gails Propaganda about what the Issues really are, really” And I only read the CalCoast part, so if I got escargot and Jambalaya it may have been off of my own per diem at least 7 years ago in the Big Easy.

    How many more years to realize Los Osos Salvation will not come from Gail or from Al Barrow or from anyone dependant on either?
    There’s one borne every minute.

    I wrote This

    And then I wrote this about the media manipulation (Click on link to get away from the tiresome back and forth) Nothing you have written since negates those.
    Everything else amounts to shooing away an annoying fly.

    “It did not interfere with “moving the Sewer back in from Tonini.” “?
    At a time and place of my choosing, Toots. The last word is yours (But I may expand the 3 points) .. You clearly need it more than I do… Blowviate away

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 8 Thumb down 7

    • Alon_Perlman says:

      Sorry Folks, I can’t fix the links The first link above is to a synopsis of Issues with the May ’09, 1,400 pages formal complaint that was so poorly written that even gail in the congleton Show now is dismissing it . It is right below (Posted on 03/15/2010 at 6:06 pm )”Lets see what the word limit is-” and contains It is a simple statement of reality that the ordinary members of the public will not be expected to read the actual submitted complaint, and rely instead on what they read in various media or listen directly to their friends.
      The second link was a response, again to an anon who seems to argue from Gails position.
      It explains why a segment on a radio shw is no more real then reality TV.
      THE MEDIA IS THE MESSAGE

      1. The Structure as pre-decided by the Radio host and in agreement with the guest as to the subjects allowed in the Call-in portion.
      2. The role e-mails to generate call-ins, play in the scripted portions.
      3. The importance of directing attention to alleged personal deficiencies of those whose points you cannot dispute, while carefully using many words in avoiding the appearance of using character attacks yourself.

      It’s a shame that MWH in New Orleans failed America, and not so hot that big companies dominate, but that doesn’t change the realities that Los Osos and the CSD directors that are elected have to deal with. Gail knows that. Some of the fellow travellers seem not to.

      Read this=
      http://www.slocounty.ca.gov/PW/LOWWP/Materials_Submitted_by_Lisa_Schicker.htm
      Free yourselves from mental slavery nothing but ourselves can free our minds

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

  3. quietbay says:

    I’m going to reply to Mr. Perlman on a fresh string.

    I don’t know what planet you’re from, but the logic behind your presentation is completely out of this galaxy. Let me bring you back to Earth.

    To summarize the report, MWH overbilled New Orleans, costing the city millions during the procurement process. Earlier, you were jokingly referring to MWH illegally ordering escargot and crawdad Jambalaya, but that’s looking at the Associated Press article and not at the actual report. Also, just to be clear, the report coming out of New Orleans is not part of a grand conspiracy to “manipulate [people] into thinking that there is salvation right around the corner.” Salvation will come from anyone who IS NOT MWH. This is not a question. It’s not spin, it’s not fiction, it’s not “innuendo.”

    Forgive me for taking you seriously for a moment. The Schicker complaint did not interfere with any board business. The complaint wasn’t a lawsuit. If it was, then you could make the case that it interfered with the process of getting the sewer built. The hours and hours of public testimony — that you’re referring to — included a variety of issues (many of which you’ve brought up). It did not interfere with “moving the Sewer back in from Tonini.” I would love to see how you arrived at that conclusion.

    Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5

    • Mythbuster says:

      quietbqy responds when asked what the outcome was of the Cape Coral case with MWH? Are they being prosecuted?:

      “Investigation is still pending,” at 3:22p.m.

      Then at 4:21p.m. says,

      “Did I mention that MWH was found guilty in the Cape Coral investigation?”

      Was that breaking news? Maybe you can point us to the court document that states that?

      Like or Dislike: Thumb up 5 Thumb down 2

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