Indecision on Contract Award for North Torrance Well Results in Project Delay

In a divided 5 to 2 vote, with Councilmembers Ashcraft and Griffiths dissenting, Torrance agreed to reconsider an award for the North Torrance Well Field Project. The $2 Million contract was initially awarded to the lowest bidder, GRFCO Inc, at the 09 June 2015 council meeting by a unanimous vote of the Council.  At the next meeting held 16 June 2015, Mayor Furey asked for the item to be reconsidered due to a voluminous communication received from the Center for Contract Compliance (CCC).

CCCThe CCC’s website indicates that it was founded by the Southern California District Council of Laborers and its affiliated local unions and that it advocates compliance with prevailing wage laws to establish a level playing field for contractors competing for public works contracts, guarantee workers are properly compensated, and facilitate quality construction for public agencies.

This not the first time the CCC has gone after GRFCO. Their website touts two previous bid protests against GRFCO in 2013 in the cities of Placentia and Pomona. No other successful bid protests by the CCC are listed on the website.

GRFCO representative Jim Jackson argued at one Council meeting that every city they do business with receives the same packet with false claims from their “adversary” the “labor union which is disguised at the CCC.” He stated GRFCO had provided the City with documentation refuting the CCC’s assertions as well as provided 3 pages of references and 58 letters of recommendation.

The information provided by GRFCO was initially sufficient to placate the concerns from City staff as they informed the Council in previous meetings that they were aware of all the complaints provided by the CCC, but that they had done their due diligence, contacted GRFCO’s references, and still recommended GRFCO for the award.

That position is consistent with several other cities that have confronted the same issue.  Pasadena, for example, recently recommended GRFCO for an award in May after reviewing the same documentation. City staff in that instance noted that they had contacted other entities where GRFCO had recently completed work such as Newport Beach, Santa Fe Springs, the Central Basin Water District, and LA County Sanitation District and had received positive reviews.  They also noted that GRFCO is in good standing with the California Contractors State Licensing Board.

Upon reviewing the matter further, however, Torrance staff has done an about face and reversed their initial conclusions.  They now claim they are persuaded by information provided by the CCC and that GRFCO should have been deemed non-responsive to the original bid instead of being awarded the contract. Their current recommendation is to start the process anew and have the project re-bid.

Should that occur, the City may get sued by GRFCO. Mayor Furey acknowledged that amidst the documentation from GRFCO was a letter from their attorney threatening legal action. Furey also revealed that GRFCO had made numerous requests to meet with City officials, but noted that he was not enamored by the threat of legal action and that the recommendation from the City Attorney is that “whenever anybody brings up a lawsuit that we’re not going to communicate with those people at all.”

If the project is re-bid, it will also mean it will not be completed until next summer instead of this summer as originally planned. This is because the project cannot be completed while school is in session due to its proximity to Yukon Elementary and North High School. The project would provide drainage systems for upcoming wells and is part of a series of planned projects by the City that would help alleviate the impacts of the drought.

3 comments

  • I am smellng DIRTY LAUNDRY, AND DIRTY DEEDS with the CITY STAFF under the direction of one City Manager who should be out of his chair. This Manager is not playing fair ball with anything he touches. He is out to satisfy his union cronies who work in the city so to keep the peace among the city employees. I say to “Hell” with the city employees who are in a union. That is what is killing this city and others for sure. I can remember when all Government in the state of CA had no UNIONS. Unions are now becoming like termites they eat, and eat, and eat some more at the city revenues. This is a ploy by city staff to placate the Union that is strangling this city totally. I say a strong “Hell No” to the Mayor and others on this Council who want to play ball with the unions over this effort to improve the city, and it doesn’t require UNION labor to accomplish it. Fire the City Manager, the Staff memeber who recommended this action and anyone else favoring Unions to be working on everything a city needs. Enough of this replace INSANITY, WITH SANITY for once.

  • Anonymous

    Interesting article. Jim Jackson states false claims. Well lets do a little review.in 2001 Southern California Under Ground and its officers George Frost (owner of GRFCO) and Jim Jackson were debarred from the City of San Diego for life for what the City of San Diego describes as CORRUPT PRACTICES in public works. Four days after the debarment a new company was started by Southern California Under Ground attorney and George Frost sister-in-law name JG Pipeline. The City of San Diego concluded that a willful effort on part of Southern California Under Ground and JG Pipeline to circumvent the the permanent disbarment mandated by the City Council. JG Pipeline and its offers were also debarred.The case went to court and the appeals court ruled in favor of the City of San Diego. Mr. Jackson what part of that documented case is a false claim.

    Jim Jackson’s other company Garcia Juarez Construction where George Frost is the superintendent. was sued in civil court for public works wages violations to include not paying prevailing wage, no OT,wrongful termination.etc. George Frost name is in the law suit. The case settled last summer.The settlement amount is not disclosed. However some of the workers (seven) were owed 10s of 1000s of dollars.Mr. Jackson what part of that documented case is a false claim.

    In 2013 the Orange County DAs Office did a search warrant on Garcia Juarez Construction for violating public works laws for the State of California.George Frost & Jim Jackson are mentioned in the search warrant.The search warrant affidavit that includes interviews from the victims(workers) states that worker were not paid prevailing wage, they had to pay kick money, Their hours were cut on the pay check to make it look like they were paid right. They were coached to tell the inspector on the project if asked how much they were paid hourly. Even though they were not paid prevailing wage.The DAs case is still ongoing. Mr.Jackson what part of that document case is a false.

    State Labor Commissioner has issued three penalties to GRFCO Inc In Dec. of 2014 for apprenticeship violations on public works
    Mr. Jackson what part of that documented case is a false claim.

    I know of more information but I think you get my point. The mention violations come from independent private, city and enforcement agencies,who have done their own investigation and come up with their owe conclusions.

    GRFCO Inc did not divulge its past history and ongoing cases on the City of Torrance contract affidavit. Do you want to hire a contractor for doing a public work paid city funds (tax payer) who is not honest on his job application.

    So many times local governments take the easy road. Their not willing to fight for whats right. Well the City government for the City of Torrance said not on our watch. They should be praised for their willingness to do the right thing for the citizens of the City of Torrance.

    Joe Friday

    • Mr. Friday, I appreciate you commenting on this post and conveying more information about this matter. I agree with you that it would appear the City Council saved the City from dealing with an unscrupulous contractor and for that the Council, Mayor Furey in particular, should be commended. What’s strange about this case, however, is that in previous meetings City Staff had vouched for GRFCO claiming they had reviewed all the evidence you bring up and yet still found GRFCO a responsible contractor recommending them for award.

      That initial positive recommendation cost the City time and money as the project will now be delayed and GRFCO has threatened litigation. It would seem like had the City done due diligence they would have been able to discover GRFCO’s falsifications prior to initially recommending them for award.

      Of Course, we also did not hear GRFCO’s side of the story, but their unwillingness to show up at the meeting and defend their company certainly made them look guilty.

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