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Border Wall Contract Award Raises Questions

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

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A contractor hired to rebuild a 2-mile-long stretch of border wall in Calexico, California, is under scrutiny after media reports revealed it is connected to a contractor of a different name with a history of underpaying or failing to pay workers on federal jobs.

SWF Constructors, of Omaha, Nebraska, according to the Associated Press, is an offshoot of Coastal Environmental Group, a New York-based firm that had contracted in the past with the Army Corps of Engineers. Coastal Environmental, the news service notes, was investigated by the Corps and the Department of the Interior for violating federal stipulations related to the payment of employees.

Calexico border fence
Josh Denmark, U.S. Customs and Border Protection, via Wikimedia Commons

SWF recieved two contracts totaling $18 million for work on the border fence in Calexico.

SWF received two contracts totaling $18 million for work related to the Calexico wall, which is a fence replacement not directly related to the larger border wall project touted by President Donald J. Trump.

SWF-Coastal Connections

Government records indicate SWF’s sole employee as Richard Silva; Coastal Environmental, with offices in both Omaha and New York, is listed as being run by Richard Silva. According to the AP, the address listed for both companies’ Omaha offices is the same.

In 2011, the Minority Business Development Agency profiled Coastal, including owners Richard Silva Jr. and Sr., for its remediation and construction work.

More recently, Coastal was subject to a number of suits filed by the federal government, subcontractors and labor unions regarding payment issues. In the wake of several contracts related to cleanup after Superstorm Sandy hit New Jersey in 2013, the Army Corps reportedly performed an audit in which one contract official advised not to do business with Coastal again due to ongoing non-payment issues.

Congressional Concerns

Lawmakers have latched onto the potentially problematic contract as evidence that the Department of Homeland Security’s Customs and Border Protection is bypassing important safeguard processes to speed wall construction under Trump.

Rep. Benny Thompson, D-Mississippi, ranking Democrat on the House Homeland Security Committee and an outspoken critic of the wall project, reportedly accused DHS of awarding the multimillion-dollar project to “a brand-new company with questionable connections and without the prior performance” in its “rush” to build the wall.

Editor's note: An earlier version of this story misidentified a second owner associated with Coastal Environmental; Richard Silva is the listed owner of the company.


Tagged categories: Contracts; Government; Government contracts; Lawsuits; NA; North America; Program/Project Management

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