Courts Whistleblower Says Contractors “Grossly Overcharged”

In a complaint filed in Superior Court in San Francisco, Paul says that his first hint that something was wrong came when, in 2007, he and a colleague proposed replacing the computer-based system that regulates mechanical and electrical equipment at one courthouse. But the proposal was rejected and instead the project went to an affiliate of the giant Jacobs Engineering Group and a smaller firm Paul says the Jacobs affiliate got $20,000 for the proposal, which he says was plagiarized from an Army Corps of Engineers study that was “widely available on the Internet.” 
When Paul looked into the Jacobs affiliate’s qualifications, he learned it didn’t have a current contractor’s license. 
Paul says he also learned the Jacobs affiliate was charging $1,000 per square foot to build a courthouse–four times what the federal General Services Administration was charging–and  the feds’ costs included post-9/11 security measures. 
Even though Paul brought these issues to his supervisors, he says they continued to give Jacobs more work and to overpay them for it. For example, when the AOC wanted electrical work done at a datacenter, Paul found a licensed contractor who offered to do it for $75,000. But the AOC wanted to hand the project to Jacobs, which was asking $189,000 to do the work– or rather, to subcontract the work to–you guessed it–yet another unlicensed contractor.
Paul raised all of these issues with supervisors, but his objections fell on deaf ears. What’s more, Paul says agency officials restricted his computer access, effectively demoting him, which could violate state whistleblower protection laws. The officials say he was not demoted.
Paul says the AOC only began to pay attention to him when he took his case  outside regular channels, writing legislators, the agency’s director and even Ronald George, the chief justice of the state Supreme Court.
Shortly afterward, the agency changed its tune, suing the contractors and asking that $32 million dollars be returned because it is unlawful to do construction work for the government without a valid contractors’ license. The allegedly unlicensed contractors, including Aleut Global Solutions, have countersued, saying the agency still owes them another $8 million. 
Paul’s lawsuit seeks an injunction to keep the Administrative Office of the Courts from wasting money, and whatever compensation “the court deems just and appropriate.” 
A spokesman for the Administrative Office of the Courts, Philip Carrizosa, said in a prepared statement that Paul’s “lawsuit is without merit and we welcome the opportunity to prove that in court.  The AOC already filed suit in December against those contractors with which it was doing business that had failed either to maintain or to obtain in the first instance proper licensure…That litigation remains pending.   The contractors with which the AOC is doing business are now properly licensed and have been for some time.” 
Attorneys for the Jacobs affiliate and for Aleut did not respond to a request for comment.
You can read the full complaint here.
-Ted Rohrlich