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Subcontractor booted from Foxconn project after WisDOT work ban comes to light

A minority-owned contractor banned from state road projects was booted Friday from its spot among 28 companies working on the first phase of construction for Foxconn Technology Group’s $10 billion factory in Racine County.

Hoffman Construction, a lead contractor on the Foxconn project, terminated its agreement with the subcontractor Vizcaino’s Trucking, of Oconomowoc, after The Daily Reporter inquired about the company’s status as a debarred contractor with the Wisconsin Department of Transportation, a list that bans companies from doing work with that agency.

Jim Hoffman, president of Hoffman Construction, said his company hired Vizcaino, in part, because it is also listed as a Disadvantaged Business Enterprise with WisDOT, a status set up to give a bidding advantage to companies owned by minorities, women and veterans. Hoffman said he had not been aware that Vizcaino had been barred from working with WisDOT.

“We are terminating our contract with Vizcanio’s Trucking because our agreement and standards do not allow for a debarred company to be involved as a subcontract,” Hoffman wrote in an email Friday afternoon. “We are starting this weekend to identify and select a different Wisconsin-based DBE to assume this work and will maintain our commitment to Wisconsin First and targeted businesses.

“We regret this oversight, and we will replace Vizcanio’s Trucking with another Wisconsin-based DBE,” he added.

When called by a reporter Friday afternoon, Nelvin Vizcaino, who is identified on LinkedIn as president of Vizcaino’s Trucking, hung up.

Foxconn recently named 28 contractors who will perform about $100 million worth of work to prepare a site in Mount Pleasant for the new factory, which will be the result of the largest construction project in state history. The company said seven of the 28 contractors working on the initial phase were owned by women, minorities or veterans, including Vizcaino. The project’s lead contractors, Gilbane and M+W Group, aim to have such companies perform 10 percent of the work needed for the massive project.

Hoffman said he hired Vizcaino’s Trucking because, at least according to a list maintained by WisDOT, Milwaukee County, Dane County and the city of Madison, it is still a valid DBE contractor. A WisDOT spokesman did not respond by press time Friday to a message seeking comment.

Vizcaino landed on WisDOT’s blacklist in July 2015. The company’s disbarment is scheduled to expire in July. Vizcaino came under scrutiny after officials there had employees give kickbacks to the company when they worked on jobs requiring the payment of prevailing wages. WisDOT estimated that Vizcaino officials improperly collected more than $200,000 from 20 employees.

In July 2017, Roberto Vizcaino Jr., a company official, was charged and later pleaded guilty to a felony county of inducing an illegal deduction of state wages.

Vizcaino’s Trucking is also listed as a Small Business Enterprise through 2020, a similar classification administered by the city of Milwaukee.

The city asks companies if they have been debarred by other agencies before certifying them as SBE contractors, said Nikki Purvis, director of the city’s Office of Small Business Development. But when companies renew their status, officials don’t follow-up. City officials recently signaled they may tighten their rules governing SBE businesses after another contractor, Sonag Construction, was indicted for bilking the government out of more than $200 million by exploiting programs set up to help firms owned by women, minorities and veterans.

A contractor landing on WisDOT’s list of debarred companies could “absolutely” lead the city to pull the firm’s SBE credentials, Purvis said. But WisDOT doesn’t notify city officials when it places a contractor on its blacklist, Purvis said.

For that reason, officials must often rely on tips from the public.

“I can say it’s not too often that we’re aware of a firm being debarred,” she said.

About Nate Beck, nbeck@dailyreporter.com

Nate Beck is The Daily Reporter's construction staff writer. He can be reached at (414) 225-1814 (office) or 414-388-5635 (mobile).

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