In this three-part series, the Jacksonville construction lawyers at Cotney Construction Law have been covering the ins and outs of bribery. In part one, we started with a basic overview of bribery and discussed common penalties. Then, in part two, we dove into some important statistics and answered the question of who is responsible for bribery?
Now, we will discuss a recent case in which a contractor was indicted for bribing a building official. Remember, for any of your bid protest needs, including bid defense against a protester, consult a Jacksonville construction lawyer.
Examining a Real-World Case of Contractor Bribery
Bribery of a public official is a federal crime. Therefore, any contractor who attempts to bribe a public official will face the same consequences as contractors in other states.
The most recently publicized case of a contractor being indicted for bribery occurred in Ohio on February 6, 2019. In this case, a federal grand jury indicted a North Royalton contractor for bribing a Cleveland building official with cash. After an investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s Office of Inspector General, and the Internal Revenue Service, the contractor was charged with seven counts of honest services mail and wire fraud. Bribes were paid to the chief of the demolition bureau in North Royalton in exchange for quick inspections and compensation for demolition projects.
In a statement to the press, U.S. Attorney Justin Herdman said, “Bribery is not acceptable, whether you are a contractor paying the bribe or a public official accepting the money. Rooting out corruption is vital to protecting our public institutions.”
Legal Tips for Contractors
If you are a contractor, you must be wary of what actions can be misinterpreted as bribery. Even the most cautious contractor can make a simple mistake that results in a bribery charge. For example, when a Certified Safety and Health Official (CSHO) visits your project site to conduct an OSHA inspection, contractors must understand that any offer made to the inspector can be misconstrued as bribery.
If a contractor were to reward their workforce with free lunch, and a CSHO arrived to conduct an inspection, the contractor could be accused of bribery if they simply offered an extra lunch to the inspector. Even if this action is performed in good faith, the transfer of any item of value to a public official could be qualified as a bribe, especially if the context of the situation indicates that there could be a potential connection between the item of value offered and the results of the inspection.
As a rule of thumb, our Jacksonville construction lawyers recommend avoiding any extraneous interactions with public or legal officials both in and out of the workplace. Follow the legal rules for procuring public works contracts and contact a Jacksonville construction lawyer if you are uncertain about the process for bidding and protesting bids.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.