DHS track excavation begins

Excavation began earlier this year at the Dallas High School track. The earthwork portion of the project was just completed and a new track surface will be installed in the spring.

Editor’s note: This is the first in a two-part series exploring the Dallas School District’s field turf and track replacement projects.

DALLAS — Two complaints were filed with state agencies in recent months regarding the Dallas High School’s turf field installation project. Both were dismissed without further investigation.

The first was filed by former district facilities director Kevin Montague in June with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, alleging that the project violated “prevailing wage” laws. He said because city of Dallas, Polk County and school district resources and personnel were used to support the project, that it should have qualified as a public project subject to prevailing wage rules, which require workers to be paid at a higher rate.

Montague was released from his contract with the school district in April 2018. He was paid through the end of his contract, which expired in July 2018.

The Dallas Booster Club sponsored the turf project, raising money and receiving pledges of in-kind donations — including engineering and project management — for the field installation, which was complete in the fall of 2018.

Montague said city and county trucks and drivers were donated from their respective employers, and district employees worked during a fundraising event in support of the project.

“The project was accomplished with many volunteer hours and much community support,” Montague wrote in his complaint to BOLI. “Many companies donated labor of their employees who worked on the project, and it is believed those employees were paid their regular rates. While this is a noteworthy endeavor, since public funds were in fact utilized, both directly and indirectly on the project, such employees were entitled to be paid (prevailing wage) for work performed on the project, even if their labor was not billed to the project and was a donation by their company, as this was clearly a project subject to the (prevailing wage) rates given the extensive amount of public funds utilized from county, city and district.”

BOLI did not investigate the complaint. Saul Hubbard, the communication director for the agency, said the complaint was filed too late after the completion of the project.

“The issue with prevailing wage, I understand that this project was completed in October or September of last year — and basically when it comes to prevailing wage cases, we do not investigate after about six months after the project,” Hubbard said.

He said construction project managers are required to hold a bond in case prevailing wage becomes an issue and a successful claim is made. Those bonds are held for six months.

“We are able to claim that money to pay the people the wages they are owed, so that is part of issue,” Hubbard said.

He said the workers on the project – which Montague was not – could file a claim within a year of the project completion.

“The other thing that I asked is that sometimes people come to us with projects that are kind of on the fence, and say, ‘Hey is this a project that should prevail or not?’, and we provide guidance,” Hubbard said. “That didn’t occur in this case.”

The second complaint was filed in October and alleged that Dallas School District board member Matt Posey violated ethics laws in his role as the project manager on the turf installation. Posey’s employer, Kizer Excavation, donated labor and equipment to the project. Posey said in his response to the complaint that he donated his time after regular work hours and on weekends.

“I was asked by the Booster Club and agreed to help in oversight of this project as a 100 percent donation of my time,” Posey wrote. “There was no financial benefit to me or my employer on this project.”

The complaint was filed by Dallas resident Scott Short, who ran for the school board in 2018.

A preliminary review report prepared by Oregon Government Ethics Commission Investigator Susan Myers alleged Posey may have committed a violation by not disclosing a conflict of interest “arising from his employer’s involvement in construction of an artificial turf field at Dallas High School.”

Short accused Posey of having a conflict of interest, and allowing costs due to longstanding drainage issues at the stadium site to by pushed to the track installation project now underway. He said in the complaint that the district has to pay an additional $800,000 to $1 million more on the track project to fix drainage issues.

“Let me just say I don’t believe anyone started this project with the intent to do anything wrong – however the situation has evolved into a real mess and will continue to get worse until someone with authority steps in and sheds light on the situation, so that it can be corrected,” Short wrote.

Interim superintendent Andy Bellando and facilities director Bob Archer refuted that accusation, saying the added cost was due to having to raise the level of the track to match the new field, and having to do an entire rebuild of the track, not just a resurface. Initial estimates of about $300,000 were just for resurfacing the existing track, Bellando said.

The district took out a loan of $1.2 million to pay for the track project.

While Myers recommended further investigation, the ethics commission declined to take up the complaint further.

“At the Oregon Government Ethics Commission meeting on Oct.  3, the Commission considered the preliminary review report regarding allegations that Matt Posey may have violated Oregon Government Ethics law. The Commission voted to dismiss the matter,” read a final order of dismissal signed by Richard P. Burke, the chairman of the commission. “Now therefore, after considering the relevant portions of the Commission’s file relating to this matter, the Oregon Government Ethic Commission enters an Oregon of Dismissal in the matter of Matt Posey.”

Up next: The I-O will look into issue of drainage on the football field and track site and how those issues were resolved in both projects.

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