Consultant group hired for state prison has past of corruption, fraud
(KUTV) On the eve of the big vote on whether to move the Utah State Prison to Salt Lake City from Draper, some lawmakers were shocked to learn the consulting company hired to guide lawmakers through the prison move process, has a past that includes corruption and fraud.
"I think the vote should be put off," said Sen. Jim Dabakis, D-Salt Lake, who has opposed moving the prison to Salt Lake.
Dabakis said he just learned Louis Berger Group, or LBG, the consulting group, was slapped with criminal and civil fines totaling over $60 million for over-billing the federal government for work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Just last month, the World Bank Group banned LBG from doing more work with them in impoverished nations, after they paid "corrupt payments," to government officials in Vietnam and India.
"We don't see any relevance to what happened in India to what's happened in Utah," said Rep. Brad Wilson, R-Davis County, who is co-chair of the state prison relocation committee. He had "faint knowledge" of LBG's issues a couple of years ago.
Wilson defends the consultants saying they did good work in Utah and it's not fair to judge a huge company of thousands by the actions of few employees.
"What kinds of issues this company had with five employees eight years ago, doesn't seem relevant to me," he said adding that other commission members likely have no issue with LBG's past either.
Wilson said the LBG consultant who advised Utah on the prison relocation has been with the company for 35 years. Wilson said he did not know how much the state has paid to LBG thus far.
Senator Luz Escamilla, D-Salt Lake, has also been vocal about her opposition to the prison move to Salt Lake. Although she would like to see the vote postponed on Wednesday, she thinks it's highly unlikely given that the governor called a special legislative session to have the vote.
She has questions about how state staffers, who review bids for state contracts, chose LBG. She is disappointed she and other lawmakers missed the information given that a simple Google search reveals many news reports about LBG's past issues.
"The company we hired and paid a lot of money to, has a history of fraud and not being truthful when it comes to their business. That's questionable. I don't feel comfortable with that information," she said.