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At the time, Diaz was president of the Kansas City Hispanic Association Contractors Enterprise. He spoke with some of the members of the group about the Block Building. None had been awarded subcontracts.
Frustrated, Diaz filed a lawsuit on August 26, 2005, against the city, the Tax-Increment Financing Commission, H&R Block and J.E. Dunn.
Its final outcome is yet to be determined, but the suit has rattled Dunn and has exposed the weaknesses in a monitoring system that doesn't ask for much more than tidy paperwork. With access to Dunn's files through the discovery process, Diaz has turned up compelling evidence that several minority fronts worked on the Block project.
Officials at J.E. Dunn insist that they made an earnest effort to hire minority businesses. A lawyer working for Dunn has called the Hispanic contractors "disgruntled," which Bill Torres, current president of the Hispanic contractors association, says is true to a point.
"We are disgruntled," he says. "but we're disgruntled about the process. We're disgruntled about the fact that there's a lot of front companies being hired to do work on these jobs."
The brass at J.E. Dunn Construction knew, from the beginning, that a white contractor was going to perform work that would eventually be attributed to a Latino.
On November 16, 2005, Trent Wachsnicht, a project manager at Dunn Construction, wrote a memo to Steve Dunn, the company's vice chairman, that pertained to H&R Block's headquarters. Wachsnicht referred to yet an earlier memo, in which Dunn was asked to evaluate R.F. Fisher Electric Company for a $2.33 million subcontract for data and communication cabling.
Wachsnicht informed Dunn that R.F. Fisher had "teamed up with Rodriguez Electrical to provide 100 percent MBE [minority business enterprise] participation." But not long after the cabling work began, a contract compliance officer in the city's Human Relations Department, Shelley Brown, visited the H&R Block construction site and saw R.F. Fisher's trucks. Brown asked Dunn Construction officials about R.F. Fisher's role in the project. So Dunn officials asked Rodriguez to clarify his participation.
Rodriguez allegedly faxed a letter on March 13, 2006, in which he assured Wachsnicht that he was "100 percent involved in this project." He had hired R.F. Fisher to install a cabling system, explaining that R.F. Fisher was needed because a manufacturer's warranty required certification that he lacked. And although his work on-site was limited, Rodriguez said he was in control of procurement, shipping and delivery.
The document was signed with an electronic signature. Rodriguez Electrical's fax number appears in the time and date stamp at the top of the page.
Dunn Construction shared the fax with Brown at City Hall. Dunn representatives say Brown did not follow up, which led them to believe that the document had addressed his concerns.
Rodriguez, however, told a completely different story in a sworn affidavit the following year.
His two-page statement, which was marked "Exhibit E" in the Diaz case, was made on July 13, 2007. In it, Rodriguez said R.F. Fisher approached him about a bidding strategy, wherein R.F. Fisher would bid on the job through his company. Rodriguez said he was not given the opportunity to perform some of the work, despite his requests.
Dunn approved the strategy, Rodriguez continued, with the understanding that Rodriguez would endorse the checks and turn them over to R.F. Fisher. Rodriguez says he received a cut of $66,892.73 of the nearly $3 million that Dunn paid after change orders were made to the original agreement.
In an interview with the city's Human Relations Department, Rodriguez stood by the story that he was a front. He also disavowed knowledge of the 2006 fax.