720-913-5000 auditor@denvergov.org

Auditor Timothy M. O’Brien, CPA, today announced an agreement with Denver International Airport to retain $1 million against the resolution of a potential $550,000 underpayment for shuttle bus drivers at the airport. The underpayment came to light in a prevailing wage audit of the DIA Hotel and Transit Center project.

“For three years, 53 drivers were paid less than half of the wages they were owed,” announced Auditor O’Brien.  “Prevailing Wage Investigators in my office learned that DIA contractors were failing to pay their workers the legal wage.”

Construction, maintenance and repair work by contractors working for the City and County of Denver is covered by City prevailing wage laws that establish minimum pay for specific types of work.  Prevailing wages are set by Denver’s Career Service Board with guidance from the U.S. Department of Labor.  The DIA hotel and transit center construction project is managed by a consortium of contractors, Mortenson Hunt Saunders (MHS).  MHS subcontracted to Power-Up Corporation the job of shuttling construction workers from a parking lot on the southern section of DIA to the hotel construction site near the terminal.  MHS is disputing application of the prevailing wage ordinance to the shuttle bus drivers.

Because of the underpayment, the Auditor’s Office exercised its authority to suspend payments to MHS.  “Our office and DIA have agreed to allow payments to be processed, as long as DIA withholds $1 million to cover the pay owed to the drivers,“ explained Jeffrey A. Garcia, Esq., the Auditor’s Director of Contracts and Accountability.

“We’ve found over and over again that once contractors are paid in full, it is difficult to obtain from them the underpayment that workers might be owed for City projects,” said Auditor O’Brien.  “Retaining a portion of the payment safeguards the necessary funds while we work to resolve the issue.  As one of the key principles behind prevailing wage is to create a level playing-field for all City contractors, fairness requires that we enforce prevailing wage laws without fear or favor.”

Prevailing Wage Investigators Valerie Ramirez and Rafael Gongon discovered the underpayment and examined the relevant records to determine the extent of the pay owed.  DIA CEO Kim Day confirmed the $1 million retention in a letter to Auditor O’Brien.

The Denver Business Journal covered the dispute in a March 2 story.

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