Construction company to pay $3 million to Fort Sill to settle false claim lawsuit
By ROSE L. THAYER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 31, 2019
A Kansas-based construction company has agreed to pay $3 million to settle a lawsuit, accusing them of submitting false claims to the Army for work completed to a dam at Fort Sill, Okla., according to the Department of Justice.
The federal government filed a civil lawsuit in April against the company, LaForge & Budd Construction Company, for work conducted in 2010 to raise the elevation of a dam on Lake George, located on Fort Sill’s east range, according to court documents. The company’s contract specified it fill the embankment with composite soils common in engineering.
However, the Army claimed LaForge used “unsatisfactory” materials, including trash, backfills from previous construction and metal rebar. The lawsuit did not describe how the Army determined the wrong materials were used.
The Army also claimed in the suit that LaForge submitted three requests for progress payments during construction on the dam’s embankment that falsely reported the work was being done based on their agreement. In each request, the company “certified that the amount requested was only for performance in accordance with the specifications, terms and conditions of the contract,” according to court documents.
In reaching a settlement, LaForge, based in Parsons, Kan., did not admit liability, and the government did not make any concessions about the legitimacy of the Army claims, according to the announcement of the settlement made by Timothy J. Downing, U.S. attorney for the Western District of Oklahoma. The agreement allows the parties to avoid the delay, expense, inconvenience and uncertainty involved in litigating the case, he said.
The work on Lake George was funded through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 and aimed to upgrade the dam to federal standards. The Army awarded the more than $2.7 million contract to LaForge in March 2010 using money in the Army’s Operations and Maintenance Account, according to court documents. Work was conducted from June to October of that year.
Fort Sill, located near Lawton in southwest Oklahoma, is home to the Fires Center of Excellence, which conducts training for field artillery soldiers and officers, as well as Marines. About 7,800 service members are permanently stationed at Fort Sill, while it supports about 9,000 trainees daily, according to the base information guide. It’s more than 81,000 acres of training land is divided into three ranges.