Las Vegas Sun

September 1, 2014

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Details emerge as CSN asks for money

Nearly three years after the telecommunications building on the Cheyenne campus was opened to the public, College of Southern Nevada officials have finally submitted paperwork to state public works seeking reimbursement for part of the work.

Much of it was done by companies that had done private work as well at the ranch of CSN construction chief Bob Gilbert.

Had CSN waited five weeks longer in filing the paperwork, it would have risked losing reimbursements totaling $1.3 million.

At the outset of the building project, Gilbert and college officials took responsibility for either performing or contracting out the work for the facility's data and telecommunications wiring, paving, floor coverings, furniture and equipment.

The list of contractors is familiar because four of them also worked on Gilbert's ranch estate near Mount Charleston. The fact that Gilbert has hired companies to do college work and also work on his ranch is one aspect of a criminal investigation by the attorney general's office.

Two other companies that provided floor furnishings, furniture and equipment for the campus building were not involved in the work at Gilbert's ranch, but were cited in a 2001 attorney general investigation into questionable contracting practices at the college.

That investigation found that the college was not properly bidding each project separately, but continued to order from the same companies that had won previous contracts.

The college paid the two companies about $1 million for furniture and $337,000 for floor furnishings for the telecommunications building.

The construction of the telecommunications building was the subject of a Sun article in April, triggered by complaints by faculty and staff that design and construction shortcuts were ordered by Gilbert to bring the project in on time and under budget.

According to invoices provided to the Sun from the state public works department, WGDL - which is being investigated for having dispatched workers to do work at Gilbert's ranch - charged the college an hourly rate of $43.66 to provide temporary construction craftsm en and carpenters for the telecommunications project, with the total cost topping $70,000.

The invoices do not detail what work WGDL employees did on the building. The company also billed about $50,000 for work on the science building at the West Charleston campus.

Another construction company that has done work at Gilbert's ranch, Universal Paving, received more than $370,000 - mostly on an hourly basis - for its work on the telecommunications building. The company provided equipment operators and did much of the paving work for the parking lot surrounding the building.

Another company, Inline Inc., earned more than $207,000 on the telecommunications project, charging $30 to $50 an hour to install data ports and cable throughout the building.

Most of the materials for the work were purchased separately by the college.

Contracts provided by the college for Inline and Universal Paving show that they bid work by the hour, not by the project, and that Gilbert had control over the hours and jobs they worked, up to $400,000 annually. CSN officials have yet to provide the Sun with what other companies bid on work based on hourly wage.

The college ignored the Sun's request for copies of contracts with WGDL. After state investigators raided the college on June 13 in connection with its probe of Gilbert, college officials told the Sun that the contracts were now in the attorney general's possession.

A fourth company, Swisher and Hall, was paid $12,000 for architectural services by the college for the building after the state paid $819,000 for the building's initial design requirements. The company designed Gilbert's ranch home, after he started construction without permits.

Several employees said Inline owner Ron Peck regularly hired college employees to work side jobs for him in exchange for cash, including those jobs contracted with CSN. Peck told the Sun the practice was limited.

Dennis McDonough, one of many longtime employees to leave CSN in the past year after a drawn-out grievance dispute, told the Sun that he moonlighted off and on for Peck for five years, mostly in the late 1990s, and was paid in cash to avoid taxes.

He said other college workers also did work for Peck after hours and were paid in cash. Some of them confirmed that to the Sun, but did not want their names published.

"No one paid taxes on anything," McDonough said of the side jobs.

Two other former college supervisors, Lester Belger, a facilities supervisor, and E. Michael Morales, an information technology supervisor, told the Sun that the moonlighting was a common practice among their employees, over their objections.

Gilbert encouraged the practice, Belger said. "They didn't have a problem with it at all."

If a contractor was paying people cash without reporting to the government and with the knowledge of college supervisors, they should have immediately put a stop to it, said Craig Walton, president of the Nevada Center for Public Ethics.

"You don't want to imply that the college is endorsing that kind of wrongdoing," Walton said. "It's not amusing, it's not cute or funny. It's just wrong."

CSN contracts require companies to follow applicable state and federal law, said system lawyer Bart Patterson , who agreed with Walton.

Gilbert has refused to speak with the Sun since February.

Peck likened the hiring of college workers for cash to hiring a babysitter - it was not worth reporting.

"It's such a little amount of hours, maybe 40 hours in a whole year," Peck said. "It was a fluke thing, whenever I needed a couple of extra guys."

Peck said he used employees because they had access to the building after hours, enabling him and the college to get work done quicker.

"I've done nothing but work my butt off for the college," he said.

Peck said he filled out the necessary tax documents when it was required, and he could provide those to the Sun. Later, he said he couldn't find any for before 2004.

While employees must report any income, Peck's tax liability is more complicated, said Steve Johnson, a Boyd School of Law professor specializing in tax law. Whether he was required to report the income or pay employment tax on those workers depends on whether they were employees or independent contractors, and depends on how much they make.

If they were independent contractors, and if they made less than $600 a year, Peck could pay workers in cash and the burden to report the income would be on the employee s . In any other scenario, Peck would be liable and could face civil penalties if the allegations are true, Johnson said. The same would be true for the workers.

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