FERNDALE - A local construction company has settled a dispute with the U.S. Department of Transportation over the use of a federal program.
IMCO General Construction has agreed to pay $200,000 but to admit no wrongdoing involving the Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program. The government alleges IMCO filed a false claim of using a certified DBE company on a federally funded Horton Road project in 2007, which involved widening Guide Meridian north of Bellingham.
A DBE-certified company is a for-profit business that is at least 51 percent owned by one or more people socially or economically disadvantaged. That could include women or minorities. The goal is to ensure such companies can compete fairly for federally funded transportation-related projects.
IMCO officials contend they believed they had hired a DBE-certified company in 2007 when they hired Aleut Trucking to perform some transportation work on the project. In an explanation posted on its company website, IMCO said they didn't learn until years later that the work was actually done by BBK Trucking, a contractor not certified by the DBE.
"BBK had Aleut logos installed on their trucks, submitted daily truck tickets and other paperwork bearing the Aleut name, and instructed their employees to pose as Aleut employees," IMCO said in the statement.
Emily Langlie, a spokeswoman for the Department of Justice in Seattle, said IMCO either knew, or should have known, that it had hired a company that was not certified in the DBE program. She said IMCO was informed by letter that they had hired a non-DBE company, but continued to file reports to the contrary.
Langlie said with these kinds of cases, the focus is usually on the companies that file the DBE claims, rather than the subcontractors.
IMCO officials reiterated on its website that they did not know BBK was being used on the project, and that as soon as they learned in November 2007 that Aleut Trucking had been decertified, they stopped using that company.
"That (November 2007) was the first time that IMCO personnel became aware that Aleut was not following the law," according to the IMCO website post.
Ashley Kimberley, a spokeswoman for IMCO, said they chose to settle rather than fight in court because they believed it was a better option than to risk losing what would have been a large lawsuit in court.
IMCO President Tyler Kimberley said the experience has been frustrating for the company.
"Our people have incredibly high standards for quality, safety and integrity," Kimberley said. "We are very committed to our clients and our community. To be wrongfully accused and made to look guilty of breaking the law is really unacceptable."