JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARBULLETIN.COM
Cooke Field, on the University of Hawaii-Manoa lower campus, is due for an artificial-turf overhaul, but work could get delayed again, this time because of contractor disputes.
Ethical issue clouds UH repairs
A contractor claims a state official is using his influence to gain work on Cooke Field
STORY SUMMARY »
The much-needed revitalization of UH's Cooke Field is mired by accusations of unethical conduct at the state level
A contractor's allegation of unethical conduct by a member of a state licensing board who is also a competitor might keep the University of Hawaii football team from taking practice on a renovated Cooke Field this season.
The field was first slated to reopen before the start of the Warriors' season next month, but the reopening was later pushed back to October.
Now a contractor who would like to bid for the field-resurfacing contract has complained to the state Contractors License Board over a rule change that aces him out of the work. The change, he contends, was recommended by a board member who is also in the field turf business.
A UH official says the school will go ahead with the bid process but has expressed concern that the dispute could push back the field's reopening to December.
FULL STORY »
In a battle over synthetic turf, a contractor has accused a state licensing board member of using his position to cut out competition in million-dollar construction contracts.
The dispute centers around the contract to lay synthetic turf at Cooke Field -- to be renamed the Clarence T.C. Ching Athletic Complex -- which is used by several University of Hawaii athletic programs, including for practice by the Warriors football team.
It threatens to put repairs at the field on hold until the debate is resolved, said David Hafner, the University of Hawaii at Manoa's assistant vice chancellor for campus services.
The field was originally slated to be resurfaced and usable by the beginning of the football season next month. A $5 million donation from the Clarence T.C. Ching Foundation in May opened new possibilities for renovation, pushing the field's scheduled reopening into October.
Now a contractor's allegation of unethical actions by a competitor who sits on the state Contractors License Board could push Cooke Field's completion date to December, according to Hafner.
"Whoever is doing this must be working for Boise State," he said.
The contractor's argument stems from an October decision by the licensing board to require that contractors carry a special license -- called a C-68FF -- to install turf at sports facilities.
On Friday the board deferred a decision until its Aug. 22 meeting on whether the new rule should be reversed.
Verna Oda, the board's executive officer, said the board's October decision is "informal" and "nonbinding" and is only a "guideline" for state agencies.
But Hafner said the university must follow the guidelines. It will proceed with opening bids on Friday but might postpone awarding the estimated $1.2 million job until the state board makes a clear ruling, he said. Otherwise the university could face a protest -- a formal complaint by a contractor that can hold up construction.
Logan Hamocon, owner of Sports Turf Hawaii, which installed the artificial turf at UH's Les Murakami Stadium last year, said before the rule change that he has experience laying 5 million square feet of top dressing, which includes natural and synthetic turf. with a C-27 landscaper's license.
He said the board never informed him that the rules were changed. He learned about it when preparing a bid for Cooke Field.
He accused Denny Sadowski, a member of the board and owner of a sport surfacing business, of a conflict of interest: recommending a rule that limits his competitors in the installing of turf at sports facilities.
The board's decision "basically puts me out of business and eliminates his competition," Hamocon said.
Sadowski, the listed agent of Applied Surfacing Technology, is one of four contractors who holds a C-68FF license in Hawaii.
In September, Sadowski recommended the board require that contractors installing turf have a C-68FF license, Hamocon said.
According to the September board minutes, Sadowski said landscapers cannot install synthetic turf because it is like laying carpet. At the same time, he raised a concern about paint contractors doing floor work.
He admitted losing a flooring job at Honokaa High School to a paint contractor and asked the board to restrict paint contractors from doing that type of work, which has been allowed since 1996.
Sadowski was assigned by the board chairman to draft the scope of work that landscape contractors and turf contractors can do.
In October, Sadowski suggested artificial-turf layers have a C-68FF license, citing the handling of sand. He said big athletic fields should be done by C-68FF licensed contractors, adding that "the Murakami Stadium at UH is being installed by a C-27 contractor who has never done this before," according to the meeting minutes.
He recused himself from the October vote on the rule change.
Previously, the board agreed last July and August that a C-68FF license was not needed to install artificial turf.
Hamocon, who said he received a recommendation from UH for his work at Les Murakami Stadium, said he never got a C-68FF license because the board told him twice he did not need it.
Oda said the board listened to Hamocon's concerns about Sadowski but did not see a conflict of interest.
Sadowski did not return repeated calls for comment.
Dan Mollway, executive director of the state's Ethics Commission, speaking in general terms, said a board member should recuse himself if a decision specifically affects his own company. He said a recused member cannot make recommendations.
"If you have a conflict, you have to sit out of the discussion the entire time," he said.
Thursday, August 7, 2008
Denny Sadowski, the listed agent for Applied Surfacing Technology, did not bid on the synthetic turf contract for Les Murakami Stadium. Originally, this article incorrectly said that he had. Logan Hamocon, owner of Sports Turf Hawaii, was the only contractor to bid on the contract, a University of Hawaii official said. Also, Hamocon has experience laying 5 million square feet of top dressing, which includes natural and synthetic turf. The article mentioned only synthetic turf.