Construction Cheats, Excessive Force, & World-Class Rowers

A weekly recap of regional news.

• A Bellevue construction company had its contractor license revoked and is barred from obtaining any future public works contracts after the state found that it had stiffed its works over $140,000.

The company, Quality Construction, came under scrutiny from the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries (L&I) when they launched an investigation into the firm in 2015. According to L&I, the firm paid carpenters apprentice wages (amounting to $31.35 per hour) on two public school projects—Sunny Hills Elementary School in Issaquah and Seattle’s Arbor Heights Elementary School—despite the fact that none of the carpenters were registered with the state as apprentices and state law required the carpenters be paid prevailing wages ($52.32 an hour). In total, L&I found that the company underpaid its workers to the tune of $142,500. Additionally, Quality Construction also falsified payroll documents detailing how much they spent on labor.

“Most companies do the right thing, and that’s important to emphasize. And there are some cases where it goes beyond our trying to educate them about, especially prevailing wage law,” said L&I spokesperson Matthew Erlich. “The fact is, there were repeated violations that showed, as it said in the press release, it wasn’t just a mistake of filing paperwork.”

Complaints have been lodged against Quality Construction in the past, including claims of marketing itself as a registered contractor when it wasn’t.

Alongside revoking its contractor license, L&I is levying $40,000 in fines on the company. So far, Quality Construction has not filed an appeal of L&I’s crackdown. Bellevue Reporter

• Two rowers who grew up on Vashon Island, who learned to row in the island’s Quartermaster Harbor, are headed to the World Rowing Under 23 Championships in Poland. Jacob Plihal and Baxter Call, along with two other American rowers, will represent the United States in the men’s quadruple sculling competition. The island rowers earned their spot at the World Championships as a result of their performance at the USRowing U23 Trials in New Jersey three weeks ago.

Both Plihal and Call rowed as members of the Vashon Island Rowing Club during high school, and have been training alongside the other two rowers, Alex Lilichenko and Jesse Maritz, as a four-person team for the past three weeks. (Scheduling conflicts set the American team back a bit in terms of training; other teams have been gearing up for the competition for months.) The team flew out to Poland on Thursday, July 19.

The World Championship take place this week (July 25-29) in the Polish city of Poznam. Plihal and Call’s race is 2,000 meters. They are expected to compete against 15 other boats from all over the world, with some 900 athletes in total participating in the event. According to Plihal, their goal is to place in the top 10, which would be an impressive feat given that the U.S. U-23 men’s quad has historically finished in last place in the event.

Both the Vashon Island rowers have big, yet different, dreams. Plihal wants to use a strong showing at the U-23 competition as a springboard to land a spot on the U.S. Senior National Team, while Call wants to head to graduate school after rowing both in high school and at Oregon State University. Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber

• The cities of Bothell and Kenmore are both considering similar affordable housing policies, plans which preserve existing affordable housing stock and upzoning to accommodate demand for market-rate units.

In Kenmore, city officials are considering changing local zoning laws to prevent the redevelopment of several mobile home parks. Tenants are concerned that they will be displaced if the property owners choose to sell the land to developers. In total, the six mobile home parks in Kenmore house 250 people, many of whom are seniors.

However, a plan released by the Kenmore Planning Commission would only preserve two of the parks (Lakewood Villa and Inglewood East) in the long term, while the rest would be up-zoned with the caveat that any redevelopment include affordable units which would be first offered up to existing tenants in the parks.

City officials are at odds over the proposals. While Kenmore Mayor David Baker acknowledged the perilous position of the mobile home tenants and said that city doesn’t intend to displace people, he also didn’t call for expanding the develop moratorium to the other four mobile home parks. In contrast, Deputy Mayor Nigel Herbig said he was “disappointed” that the Planning Commission’s recommendation didn’t include additional preservation.

Meanwhile, the Bothell City Council is also considering adopting policies that would link upzoning to affordable housing by requiring that developers set aside a certain percentage of units in new projects as rent-restricted.

Additionally, both cities are also considering adopting charging developers fees in-lieu of building actual affordable housing units. Bothell-Kenmore Reporter

• A federal jury awarded Josiah Hunter $640,000 in a lawsuit he filed against the Federal Way Police Department over an officer’s excessive use of force.

The lawsuit stems from a 2014 incident where Hunter and a friend (both of whom are African American) witnessed a car accident that was the result of a drunk driver and were then forcibly arrested with a chokehold after failing to comply with police orders to leave the scene. Hunter and his friend were eventually charged with obstruction of justice, criminal trespassing, and resisting arrest.

The Hunter family eventually hired attorney James Bible, who began investigating the incident, eventually suing the City of Federal Way, the police department, and the officer involved in the episode for excessive use of force and violating Josiah’s civil rights.

In response to the jury’s verdict—which was released on July 17—Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell expressed disappointment with the lawsuit’s outcome and pledged that the City of Federal Way will be appealing decision.

“While I respect the jury’s decision in the Josiah Hunter civil lawsuit against the city, we believe that legal errors were committed during this trial. Therefore, we are going to appeal this decision,” Ferrell said in a July 19 statement. “I want to make it clear that the men and women of the Federal Way Police Department have my full faith and confidence. The City of Federal Way has zero tolerance for police misconduct, and we do not believe that that is what transpired in this case.” Federal Way Mirror