Hingham takes tough medicine
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Members of the Carpenters Union passed out information to Hingham residents attending last night's Town Meeting. The meeting considered and passed a motion a Proposition 2 1/2 override question on a town election ballot this weekend. Hingham must secure additional funding (raise taxes!)to qualify for reimbursement from the State School Building Authority for a school building recently completed.

The information handed out by carpenters made the connection between the underground economy and overrides like the one in Hingham. As you recall, several subcontractors for Avalon Bay have been cited recently by the Attorney General??s Office for misclassification of workers and other wage and hour law violations. Misclassification cheats the feds, state and local municipalities out of owed tax revenue and is a significant problem in the construction industry state-wide.

Avalon Bay CEO Bryce Blair is a Hingham resident.

Rick Braccia, President/Business Manager of Carpenters Local 424 submitted the following letter to the Hingham Journal:

April 23, 2009

To the Editor;

Last year, in this and other local newspapers, the New England Regional Council of Carpenters shed light on the illegal business practices of a number of developers and contractors, both large and small. In Hingham, we focused on Avalon Bay and its CEO, Hingham resident, Bryce Blair. It was our contention that our members, as well as every other taxpayer in the Commonwealth were being cheated by the failure of Avalon Bay??s contractors to comply with state and federal tax laws. In many cases, we were dismissed as sore losers because our contractors and members were not being awarded the work on the projects.

In February of this year, the State Attorney General??s office issued citations against several contractors who worked on Avalon Bay projects throughout New England. The fines imposed were for the same violations which the carpenters union claimed were standard procedure on the jobs, and in fact, were part of the Avalon Bay business model.

However, vindication is far from sweet. These same business practices continue unchecked, not only in the world of profit driven private development, but in public construction as well. As Hingham is facing an override to secure state funding for the new elementary school, V Locke Contracting, a major subcontractor on that same school is under investigation by the Attorney General??s office for multiple violations, including worker misclassification, falsification of public documents, and undercutting the state-mandated wage. I have personally interviewed several workers who worked on this project and who were paid in cash, at less than the prevailing wage.

There seems to be more than a trace of irony in this. Avalon Bay??s contractors, V Locke Contracting, and hundreds like them are cheating Massachusetts out of hundreds of millions of dollars annually in unpaid taxes. And now Hingham is in the position of asking their taxpayers to come up with more cash out of pocket to supplement the shortfall in state revenue.

I have to ask- where is the outrage? I urge Hingham taxpayers to visit the new school on Collins Avenue and talk to the superintendant. His employer, CTA, won the bid based on a cheater??s price. Ask him why you should pay his salary. I also urge any resident who sees Bryce Blair around town for a thank you or an apology. After all your taxes are subsidizing his business.

Richard Braccia
Carpenters Local 424