Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Contractor With Guns, White Supremacy Sticker Again At Issue

American Sewer Services employee is reported to have directed racial slur and other "colorful" language at city employee

By - May 16th, 2019 12:54 pm
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American Sewer Services employees. Left photo by Brian Oliver. Right photo by Sam Singleton-Freeman.

American Sewer Services employees. Left photo by Brian Oliver. Right photo by Sam Singleton-Freeman.

American Sewer Services again finds itself in hot water with city officials.

The utility contractor forfeited over $890,000 in city sewer contracts in 2018 after an employee was photographed brandishing a firearm and another was found with a white supremacy sticker on a cooler at a job site.

Now, a complaint submitted by a city employee alleges that an American Sewer employee directed a racial slur and other “colorful” language towards the city employee at a city job site. The incident, according to testimony before a city committee, was triggered by the city employee identifying a perceived issue about the manner in which a trench was being dug and how the city would need to repair the work. City employees routinely visit job sites to inspect private contractor work.

The city could ban American Sewer Services from bidding on future city contracts if the allegation is found to be true. The company, one of few sewer contractors that bid on city work, has performed over $50 million of work for the city since 2013.

But Wednesday morning at a meeting of the Common Council’s Public Works Committee, Department of Public Works administrative services manager Dan Thomas detailed difficulties and delays in discerning the validity of the complaint.

The complaint was dated January 24th and received by the city on January 31st. The city notified the employee that an investigation was opened on February 6th. But then Thomas said he found American Sewer unresponsive, having sent multiple emails and letters without a response.

A response recently came from American Sewer that stated the address given in the complaint was in the City of West Allis.

“My suggestion for [American Sewer] was to identify people working in the City of Milwaukee that day, take photos of them,” said Thomas. “So as to render irrelevant what the address was.” The complainant would identify the American Sewer employee from a photo lineup.

“The fact that we’ve been going back and forth with them for four months is evidence they don’t take this seriously,” said committee chair Alderman Robert Bauman. “I’m perfectly willing to pull the trigger on this outfit without hesitation.”

“We all remember their famous performance by their assistant accountant or whatever,” said Bauman. “The guy knew nothing about nothing.” The company sent a project manager, instead of firm president and owner Dennis Biondich, to read a written statement in front of the committee in December 2017. Thomas said Biondich has since entered into semi-retirement. Biondich was said to have missed the 2017 meeting because of a medical procedure.

Thomas said he was unaware of any other pending litigation involving American Sewer. Following the January 2018 settlement, another company employee was found carrying a firearm at a city job site.

The committee held the communication file, pending an update from the department on the status of the complaint.

The Department of Public Works declined to provide the complaint to Urban Milwaukee because the allegation has not been substantiated. The description of the complaint portrayed in this article comes from Thomas’ testimony before the committee.

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Related Legislation: File 190153

More about the Contractor Gun Debate

Categories: City Hall, Politics

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