The state recently renewed a contract for bridge inspection vehicles with a Virginia company that was embroiled in a seven-year criminal court battle with the federal government that ended last month with a $137,500 fine for alleged falsified inspection reports related to the death of a Connecticut man. .
The company also plans to file a lawsuit against the state Department of Transportation to suspend use of its equipment for 10 months after the fatal crash and another incident the day before in Connecticut, the documents show.
William Shook, 43, of Middlefield, died Aug. 26, 2015, after the vehicle he was using to inspect an Interstate-84 bridge in West Hartford unexpectedly overturned, trapping him between a Jersey barrier and the truck, according to a federal investigative report. .
Shook was an employee of Virginia-based McClain & Company, which leases bridge inspection vehicles in several states, including Connecticut.
The day before Shook’s death, two McClain & Company employees had to be rescued by the New London Fire Department after a piece of equipment came loose while they were suspended in the bucket of one of the bridge’s inspection trucks , according to an internal memo obtained by Hearst. Connecticut Media Group.
In the days that followed, the Connecticut branch of the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration opened an investigation into the death, records show. Federal authorities alleged in court documents released last month that McClain & Company paid a third party to provide OSHA with falsified inspection reports on its vehicles and used some of the false documents to show that the truck involved in the death of Shook had been properly inspected. However, records show the vehicle had not been inspected.
Despite the indictments and years of federal criminal litigation that followed, the state Department of Administrative Services in May renewed the contract with McClain & Company even as the DOT issued a moratorium on the use of its equipment and the Federal Highway Administration suspended the company. for three months. The company now operates under a compliance agreement with the FHA, records show.
In a letter to the state’s claims commissioner, a lawyer representing McClain & Company said the moratorium hurt the business and “caused them to suffer significant damages.”
As a result, the company was seeking the right to sue the DOT, the letter said.
A DAS spokesman declined to comment because of pending litigation. The state’s claims commissioner recently approved the lawsuit, according to a spokesman for the office of Attorney General William Tong, who will represent the state agency in the litigation.
In 2016, OSHA fined McClain & Company $11,500 for two violations it deemed “serious” and “willful” related to Shook’s death, agency documents show. During the investigation, the FHA suspended McClain & Company from supplying rental bridge inspection vehicles to any state receiving federal transportation funding for three months, according to agency documents.
Daniel McClain, owner of the company, his employee Kenneth Mix, and Carol “Casey” Smith, president of the Virginia company hired to inspect the vehicles, have pleaded guilty in federal court to related misdemeanor charges with the falsification of inspection reports and were issued fines.
McClain’s attorney, Scott Orenstein, said in a March letter to the claims commissioner that an employee simply submitted OSHA reports that were “dated to the date the paperwork was prepared rather than when they were carry out the inspections”. Orenstein also said the DOT “had no authority to issue the moratorium.”
Orenstein said the DOT’s moratorium on the use of McClain & Company by any state agency or contractor was in effect from Aug. 26, 2015, to June 24, 2016, two months after OSHA concluded the your research
A plea agreement for Smith states that he admitted he did not conduct the inspections and did not know whether the vehicles met federal safety requirements. McClain & Company paid him $76,000 for 123 certificates of inspection from 2012 to 2015 for vehicles he never inspected, according to the plea agreement.
Federal authorities announced last month that McClain & Company had to pay a $137,500 fine to settle criminal allegations of falsified documents filed against the company.
In a statement issued after the settlement was announced, McClain denied any wrongdoing and said he accepted the deal to avoid further costs from the federal litigation, which has lasted nearly seven years. But he had pleaded not guilty as part of the deal.
“We settled with the government because their investigation has been bleeding us for years,” McClain said in the statement.
McClain said the allegations outlined by the Connecticut U.S. attorney’s office were untrue and that his own investigation concluded the crash was “probably caused by operator error.”
“McClain & Co. has and has always had a strong safety program and a good safety record,” McClain said. “The company has been in business since 1998. Other than this tragic fatality, no McClain & Co. employee or other equipment user has ever been seriously injured while using our equipment.”
After her husband’s death, Danielle Shook sued Smith and the Virginia company that provided the falsified inspection reports and received a settlement in federal court, records show. The amount of the settlement is confidential, his attorney said. She could not be reached for comment, he said.
The DAS contract with McClain & Co. for $300,000 runs from May 2022 to May 2025.