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AG: Rochester’s Bell Mechanical pays out $200,000 to NYS over false diversity claims

New York Attorney General Letitia James.
WMHT file photo
New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The New York Attorney General announced on Tuesday that Bell Mechanical Contractors will pay New York state $200,000 in a settlement for forging diversity criteria in the Rochester Schools Modernization Program (RSMP).

State and local laws require contractors like Bell to meet minimum diversity standards for hiring minority-owned and woman-owned businesses. Contractors are obligated to include woman and minority-owned businesses in at least 20 percent of work. 

AG Letitia James said that Bell Mechanical falsely claimed to meet that criteria in 2013. Instead they hired non-eligible businesses to do the work while attributing it to another company that would have met those requirements.

In a statement, James said that diversity standards exist to provide equal opportunities to New York businesses, “but those standards cannot be effective when companies like Bell Mechanical attempt to game the system.” 

Attorney Richard Bell Junior, representing Bell Mechanical, said that the company has made no admission of liability and continues to deny any wrongdoing. 

Bell Mechanical is one of nine companies that have settled with the New York Attorney General for a total of more than $1 million over falsely claiming to meet diversity criteria in connection to RSMP. Those companies with the highest settlements include Concord Electric Corp., Manning Squires Hennig, and Hewitt Young Electric LLC. 

RSMP, overseen by the Rochester Joint Schools Construction Board (RJSCB), is one of the largest public projects in Rochester’s history, amounting to $1.2 billion.

In a statement on Wednesday Commissioner Norman Jones, chair of the RJSCB said that she commends the AG's work to investigate and expose efforts to subvert the board's diversity plan.

"Efforts to defeat these important requirements by circumventing the Board’s workforce and business participation goals will not be tolerated," Jones said. "We continue to actively monitor our diversity requirements to ensure that contractors are in compliance and that no further wrongdoing occurs."

Noelle E. C. Evans is WXXI's Murrow Award-winning Education reporter/producer.
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