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Crooked Corrupt Contractor Who Allowed Racist Incidents At SFO Given New Contract by MTA
by repost
Friday May 24th, 2013 3:13 PM
Crooked Corrupt Ron Tudor who is linked to Richard Blum, Diane Feinstein's husband and the UBC president McCarron was awarded a contract by the SF MTA board for the new subway despite a record of OSHA violations and allowing racist incidents on previous jobs.
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Crooked Corrupt Contractor Who Allowed Racist Incidents At SFO Given New Contract By SF Mayor Ed Lee's MTA Board
With little wiggle room, Muni trusting controversial contractor for Central Subway work
http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/development/2013/05/little-wiggle-room-muni-trusting-controversial-contractor-central-subway-w
By: Will Reisman | 05/23/13 7:41 PM
SF Examiner Staff Writer

MIKE KOOZMIN/THE S.F. EXAMINER
Operating under a tight schedule and even tighter budget, Muni is about to hand over its $1.6 billion Central Subway plan to a man who has a contentious history with The City and a reputation for exceeding project costs.

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency’s board of directors, which governs Muni, unanimously awarded an $840 million construction contract to Tutor Perini, a national firm led by Ron Tutor. As a result of the contract, the transit agency’s contingency budget for the Central Subway project dipped to $65 million, well below the $160 million minimum federal standard. And the plan has just a 4.7-month scheduling buffer zone, also below the 10-month federal standard.

Tutor, a billionaire construction magnate, has successfully overseen an array of multimillion-dollar undertakings across the country. He’s also been sued a number of times, including once by San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera.

In 2002, Herrera accused Tutor of defrauding city taxpayers by increasing the cost of a rehabilitation project at San Francisco International Airport from $620 million to $980 million. The two sides eventually settled, with Tutor paying The City $19 million.

RELATED...

SFMTA approves Central Subway contract with Tutor Perini despite concerns
05/21/13 8:14 PM
Despite concerns about potential cost overruns and a lack of local firms hired to work on the Central Subway project, Muni officials Tuesday approved an $840 million contract for the $1.6 billion transit-extension plan. The contract — awarded to Tutor Perini, a large contractor based in Southern California — covers the construction and installation of three stations, 1.5 miles of tracks and a new train-control system. Read More
Aaron Peskin, former president of the Board of Supervisors, said Tutor has managed to maintain his portfolio of work because of his phalanx of lawyers and his powerful friends, which include ex-Mayor Willie Brown. Tutor even personally donated $500 to Herrera’s unsuccessful mayoral campaign in 2011.

“Tutor’s very litigious,” Peskin said. “And he’s incredibly politically connected.”

Peskin, an opponent of the Central Subway, said Tutor’s involvement will ensure that the project goes down as a “huge civic embarrassment.”

Tutor has been demonized by his critics for initially bidding low for projects and then adjusting the cost upward, a practice called change-order contracting. In 1992, then-Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley said Tutor was “the greatest change-order artist I’ve ever seen.”

A report last year by The Bay Citizen found that 11 projects overseen by Tutor in the Bay Area exceeded their costs by a collective $765 million.

Quentin Kopp, a retired Superior Court judge and former president of the Board of Supervisors, said Tutor has made a career of change-ordering contracts to greatly increase their original costs.

“Awarding him the contract is just the latest mistake made by the SFMTA,” Kopp said.

Tutor’s bid for the Central Subway contract — which includes the construction of three train stations — was $27 million lower than the next-closest firm. By law, the transit agency is obligated to accept the “lowest and most responsible bidder.”
Director Tom Nolan, president of the transit agency’s board, said he was aware of Tutor’s reputation for change orders but did not know about Herrera’s lawsuit.

“This is far from perfect,” Nolan said. “But putting this out to bid again would have put us way behind schedule.”

Paul Rose, a spokesman for the transit agency, said Tutor Perini has an impeccable record for completing large-scale projects, including Muni’s Metro extension undertaking that was completed in 1997.

Tutor was unable to respond to requests for comment Thursday. But in August 2012, when asked similar questions about his involvement with San Francisco and his history of change orders, Tutor said, “I have a great working relationship with Muni and my track record on change orders is no different than any other large contractor.”

wreisman [at] sfexaminer.com



Read more at the San Francisco Examiner: http://www.sfexaminer.com/local/development/2013/05/little-wiggle-room-muni-trusting-controversial-contractor-central-subway-w#ixzz2UFZTFnJ5

SF Boondoggle Subway's Low Bidder Has History Of Corruption, Murder And Racism On Projects
by repost
Saturday Aug 11th, 2012 8:14 AM
Corrupt Richard Blum who is married to Diane Feinstein is connected to the recent awarding of a contract for the billion dollar boondoggle subway. His company Tudor-Saliba-Perini was involved in racism at SFO, cost over-runs and the murder of workers at LA subway job

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SF Boondoggle Subway's Low Bidder Has History Of Corruption, Murder And Racism On Projects-Tie To Investor Dick Blum Feinstein's Husband And UC Regent

Low bid on subway station could cost SF
Zusha Elinson, Bay Citizen
Updated 11:24 p.m., Friday, August 10, 2012
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Low-bid-on-subway-station-could-cost-SF-3780385.php

A construction giant with a history of cost overruns and expensive legal battles is the leading candidate to build a new subway station in San Francisco.
Tutor-Saliba Corp.'s $239 million bid to build the Chinatown station for the planned Central Subway is the lowest of four bids being evaluated by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency. By law, the lowest bidder has a significant edge in public contracts.

But history suggests that the transportation agency should proceed with caution: Collectively, 11 major Bay Area projects completed by the construction company since 2000 have cost local government $765 million more than expected, 40 percent above the initial bids, according to a review by the Bay Citizen.

"Tutor is doing the same thing that he has always done: He bids super low, but the project ends up costing a lot more in the end," said Kevin Williams, a former city contract compliance officer who raised concerns about the company's work at San Francisco International Airport. "The reason that he is repeating this on the taxpayers' dime is because he gets away with it," Williams said, referring to company CEO Ron Tutor.

While it's not uncommon for construction costs on major projects to grow and exceed the initial bid, Tutor-Saliba's bidding practices have drawn such scrutiny that at one point officials in Los Angeles and San Francisco both sought to bar the company from bidding.

Tutor-Saliba has continued to win new projects despite attracting both criticism and lawsuits that allege the company drives up the price of projects.

The tough-talking CEO Tutor characterizes attacks on his company as "bull-," turning the blame back on local agencies for routinely making costly changes to their original plans.

The list of local Tutor-Saliba jobs includes some of the largest construction projects in the Bay Area, such as the BART extension to San Francisco International Airport, the airport's new International Terminal, and seismic retrofits of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge and the western approach to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge.

Going over budget is common on public works projects. A widely cited 2003 study of 258 large rail, bridge, tunnel and road projects around the world found that nearly 9 out of 10 came in over budget.

Cost overruns
The study, by Oxford University Professor Bent Flyvbjerg, found that on average, rail projects went over budget by 45 percent, bridges and tunnels by 34 percent and roads by 20 percent. Overruns on Tutor's 11 Bay Area projects ranged from 1 to 107 percent.

Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority lawyers and San Francisco City Attorney Dennis Herrera previously have sought to ban Tutor from bidding on new jobs. In work at the San Francisco airport, Herrera alleged in a 2002 lawsuit that the company "artificially inflated" bills when the cost rose 56 percent, from $626 million to $980 million.

Ron Tutor countered that increases are driven by public agencies. For example, in the retrofit of the Richmond-San Rafael Bridge, the contract increased by half by the time it was completed in 2005, in part because of underwater debris that surprised even the California Department of Transportation.

"There is this bias that it must be the contractor," Tutor said in an interview. "They never look to see what's behind the increases, and 90 percent of the time, it's the owners adding to the work."

Central Subway bid
The Chinatown subway station is to be built on Stockton Street in San Francisco. It is planned as the final stop of the $1.6 billion Central Subway, which will run from South of Market to Chinatown.



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/news/article/Noose-at-Job-Site-Angers-Black-Workers-Symbol-2985700.php#ixzz23FPQpaTf

SFO Contractor Put Up Noose, Suit Charges / Incident after complaint filed
Chuck Finnie, Chronicle Staff Writer
Published 4:00 a.m., Friday, March 30, 2001
http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/SFO-Contractor-Put-Up-Noose-Suit-Charges-2936900.php

A San Francisco airport contractor displayed a hangman's noose at its construction site to retaliate against a minority subcontractor who complained to city officials about being shortchanged by the firm, a lawsuit filed yesterday claims.

Willie Ratcliff, the African American owner of Liberty Builders Inc., says in his San Francisco Superior Court suit that Hensel Phelps Construction Co. caused him to run up $2.4 million in unnecessary expenses for which his company was never compensated.

After he complained to the city's Human Rights Commission in August 1998, the suit says, a former Liberty Builders employee working for Hensel Phelps saw a noose hanging in the company's construction trailer at San Francisco International Airport. "The noose was displayed in direct response to the Human Rights Commission report," the suit says.

"It is widely and commonly known and recognized that the display of a noose is a symbol of racism and hatred against African Americans," it says.

A lawyer for Hensel Phelps, a prime contractor on SFO's nearly completed $2. 8 billion expansion, denied Ratcliff's allegations.

Eric Wilson, the company's general counsel, said local, state and federal authorities investigated the claim that a noose was present at the site. He said investigators concluded that while a rope was in the trailer, it was not fashioned into a noose.

"Nevertheless, our company took appropriate action to educate our employees to make sure our employees are sensitized to the issue," Wilson said.

A spokesman for the city attorney's office said that after Ratcliff complained to the Human Rights Commission, the then-director of the agency, Marivic Bamba, also concluded that Liberty Builders hadn't been underpaid.

"There was a finding of no discrimination and that they were more than fully compensated," city attorney spokesman Nathan Ballard said.

Ratcliff, who also publishes the San Francisco Bayview newspaper, contends that his allegations against Hensel Phelps were swept under the rug for political reasons.

"I had to go to court over this because of politics and the failure of the city to enforce its own laws," he said.

The case was filed on Ratcliff's behalf by attorney Angela Alioto, the former two-term San Francisco supervisor and mayoral candidate.

In the suit, Ratcliff says Hensel Phelps hired Liberty to perform $3.2 million of concrete work on the new international terminal building so Hensel Phelps could comply with the city's affirmative action in contracting ordinance.

But the suit claims that Liberty Builders sustained losses because of shoddy preparatory work by Hensel Phelps that extended the length of the job and that Liberty's share of the project was then illegally cut back.

The hangman's noose allegation drew the attention of the FBI following a complaint to the U.S. Justice Department by the local chapter of the NAACP.

Although nothing came of the noose probe, the FBI expanded its investigation into a broader inquiry of suspected abuses of the minority contracting program and public corruption in city contracting in general.

Last April, a U.S. grand jury indicted a top Human Rights Commission official, Zula Jones, and four executives of a Hunters Point company, Scott- Norman Mechanical Inc., charging it was a front for a large nonminority firm, the Scott Co., of San Leandro.

All five defendants have pleaded not guilty and face trial in May.




MTA Wins $29 Million From Subway Contractor
Courts: Jury award is a blow to Tutor-Saliba, which vows to appeal. Its chief berates the judge.
August 02, 2001|MATEA GOLD and JEFFREY L. RABIN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS
http://articles.latimes.com/2001/aug/02/news/mn-29770

Construction giant Tutor-Saliba Corp. was ordered Wednesday to pay more than $29.5 million for assorted acts of business misconduct related to Los Angeles' long-troubled subway system, a damage award that could hamper the firm's ability to land future public works jobs.

Although less than the $41 million sought by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority, the hefty amount awarded by a Los Angeles Superior Court jury is still a bitter disappointment for officials at Tutor-Saliba, one of the largest contractors in the state. The verdict blemishes the reputation of the well-known contractor and could make it more difficult for the company to land contracts for the massive airport, rail and other public projects that are its hallmark.

Jurors awarded the large sum on the eighth day of deliberations. Afterward, several said they based the verdict on evidence presented by the MTA that the contractor submitted false claims for payment, used fronts posing as minority subcontractors and committed more than 1,000 acts of other unfair business practices.

David Casselman, the MTA's lead attorney on the case, said Tutor-Saliba shifted the costs of one subway project to another to misrepresent the company's revenue. The firm also stopped quality inspection because of a contract dispute, he said, risking the safety of the project.

Although Tutor-Saliba officials said they would appeal, MTA officials expressed relief at the conclusion of the six-year, multimillion-dollar case that grew increasingly bitter as it dragged on. By the trial's end, a lawyer for the MTA had compared Tutor-Saliba to a shark, and the company's chief executive had vowed never to work with Los Angeles' transit agency again.

On Wednesday, MTA officials said they hoped the verdict would dissuade other contractors from attempting to defraud public agencies.

"This is not just about the money that we lost or the damages that have been assessed, but is an important message to the contracting community in general," said MTA Chief Executive Julian Burke, adding that he believed Tutor-Saliba's actions were atypical among contractors that work for the agency.

The award represents a major court victory for the MTA and comes after a protracted legal battle that severed its relationship with its largest contractor. No matter what the outcome of the appeal, that relationship is now dead.

"I wouldn't work for them if they were the last owner on the face of the Earth," said a furious Ron Tutor, president of the company, after the verdict.

He declared himself "outraged" and "flabbergasted" by the outcome of the trial and said Judge Joseph Kalin prevented the company from fully presenting its case.

"There is no question in my mind that this is a terrible injustice," Tutor said. "Had we been given the opportunity to put on our witnesses, there's no question in my mind the verdict would have been different. I never had a trial."

Tutor-Saliba plans to appeal immediately. The company's attorneys argued in May that Kalin was biased and was acting as an advocate for the transit agency.

But the award to the MTA could damage Tutor's carefully cultivated political standing. The company is a major supporter of Mayor James K. Hahn, Gov. Gray Davis and U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.). The senator's husband, Richard Blum, and his investment firms are major shareholders in a construction company that partnered with Tutor-Saliba on the subway project.


Most ominous for the company is the possibility of the Federal Transit Administration following up on the verdict by moving to temporarily bar the Sylmar-based firm from bidding on federally funded public works projects. States are often wary of contractors that are blocked from federal projects, and subcontractors also face limitations in doing work with such companies.

A spokeswoman for the federal agency said officials were considering the issue and would decide whether to hold a hearing.

Public works projects are the lifeblood of Tutor-Saliba, which has constructed more than $5 billion worth of projects in California, including public buildings, highways, bridges, airports and rail systems. The company received $945 million for its work on the $4.7-billion Los Angeles subway system, making it the largest contractor on that project.

Tutor-Saliba attorney Nomi Castle acknowledged that the case was not good for the company's reputation but insisted that, "in the long run, it won't have a lasting effect."

The lawsuit was the latest in a series of controversies that have dogged the subway project, including three workers' deaths, thin walls, misaligned tunnels and cost overruns.

In pursuing Tutor-Saliba through the courts, the MTA was forced to spend about $19 million in legal fees--money that officials said they expect the judge to order the company to pay.

County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a MTA board member, said the agency was right to pursue the litigation even in the face of such staggering costs.


Mr.Blum makes an annual salary of approximately $4 million as the Financial Advisor of the Carpenters Pension, and his wife, Senator Dianne Feinstein, is one of the candidates that receives the largest sum of contributions from the Carpenters Union.


Note where the members' money is going to. Why does McCarron need to dish out all of that money for legal counsel?! Is it so that he has protection from all of the illegal activities that he commits and so the lawyers can fight against the members; the very members that pay their salaries!

And why is Richard Blum (Senator Dianne Feinstein's husband) paid nearly $4 million of members' money, so that he can invest millions of dollars of members' money into non-Union companies?!!!


BLUM GETS A HEFTY BONUS IN SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA.

Richard C. Blum, husband of California Senator Dianne Feinstein was paid the following sum of money from the Southern California Carpenters Pension Trust.


$4,493,058.00 was his regular consulting fee for 1998, plus he received the following:

$28,327,542.00 As a performance fee which is based on cumulative net investment income of $332,876,190.00, Representing a 35.28% Annual Yield on investment, for the period July 1, 1994 to June 30, 1998.

In 1997 he received as a consulting fee the amount of $7.8 Million.

What type of an increase did the retirees receive from 1994 to 1998?
Was it 5% increase which amounts to $40.00 to $70.00 for the average carpenter, plus a temporary 13th check. This figure is far from the $32 Million received by Blum.


Can McCarron, Tutor, and Blum run a Union, Pension Trust, and a Multi-Million dollar construction company at the same time?!

Why doesn't the Department of Labor-Racketeering and Corrupt Organizations Act (RICO) and the Department of Justice investigate this matter?!

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


Ronald Tutor's (Subway Builder) Link to Union Questioned

As a trustee of the Carpenters Union Pension Fund, Ronald Tutor is prohibited by federal law from engaging in any business transactions that amount to self-dealing or that may conflict with the interests of the Pension Fund.

While serving as co-chairman of the regional Carpenters Pension Fund, contractor Ronald N. Tutor, Pension Fund Chairman Douglas McCarron, and thier partners in boxing operation, Ten Goose Boxing, staged televised bouts at a Palm Springs hotel owned by the fund.

Tutor said he would welcome a review of his operation. "The government can come out and investigate anything they like," he said. "We've got legal advice on everything we do."

Tutor is president and chief executive officer of Tutor-Saliba Corp., based in Sylmar. The construction firm has won more than $400 million of Metro Rail subway contracts over the past six years. Much of the work has been performed by members of the Carpenters Union.

Since the late 1980's, Tutor has served as co-chairman of the Carpenters Pension Trust of Southern California, a $1.3 billion retirement pool funded by Union members and their employers.

Tutor, co-chairman of the Pension Trust,has developed a close working relationship with Douglas J. McCarron, the top Carpenters Union official in Southern California.

Tutor and McCarron were instrumental in hiring the Richard Blum firm, Blum Associates, whose compensation in 1991 was by far the highest paid to any advisor by the pension fund, tax records show.

For one of its biggest promotions, Ten Goose, with Tutor's assistance, did business with the Carpenters Pension Trust of California. Ten Goose and promoter Dan Duva staged the event on June 1, 1991, at the Palm Springs Radisson-a $36 million hotel-resort complex owned by the Pension Fund. The matches were televised nationally by the Home Box Office network.

Union leader McCarron is also a good friend of Ten Goose Boxing.

The Carpenters Union over the past few years has paid thousand of dollars to be a "sponsor" of Ten Goose Boxing. The sponsorship permits the Union to display banners at fights and get ringside seats.

Goosen said he conferred with McCarron to arrange the June, 1991, fights at the Pension Fund's hotel in Palm Springs. "I spoke to Doug on it. He wanted it out there," Goosen said.

The Tutor-Saliba Corp. and the Los Angeles District Council of Carpenters sponsored various fights at the Country Club in Reseda, California. The conflict of interest is so great that the ringside physician, Dr.Robert Karns, at those fights is also contracted by the Carpenters Pension Trust (through which he made nearly $25,000 in 1995) to examine medical records of pension claimants that must submit evidence of disability for disability claims. Talk about keeping it all in the family!

$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$$


There have been four deaths on the Red Line Subway project in the last two years, and yet CAL-OSHA hasn't once even shut down the job site.

"MTA CONTRACTOR (Ronald Tutor) UNDER FIRE: Tutor-Saliba violated rules in harassment case."

-Los Angeles Daily News, March 30, 1996


"MAN WINS $22.65 MILLION JUDGEMENT: Jury finds contractor (Ronald Tutor) negligent in 1994 Coliseum fall."

-Los Angeles Daily News, August 10, 1996

"FALLING BIN KILLS (Red Line-Ronald Tutor) SUBWAY WORKER"

-Los Angeles Times, February 16, 1997


MAN WINS $22.65 MILLION JUDGMENT : JURY FINDS CONTRACTOR NEGLIGENT IN 1994 COLISEUM FALL.

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A Los Angeles jury has awarded $22.65 million in damages to a Granada Hills worker left paralyzed by a 1994 fall during quake repairs to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.

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The jury ruled Thursday that Coliseum general contractor Tutor-Saliba Co. of Sylmar was negligent in allowing Michael Francois and other workers on unsecured scaffolding without key safety features such as harnesses or belts that would keep them from falling, Francois' attorney said.

Francois, 40, lost his balance when a loose board on a scaffolding platform gave way after he stepped on its end, according to court documents. The 16-foot fall broke his neck and left him a quadriplegic.

Francois, a foreman for Tutor subcontractor Alcorn Fence Co. of Sunland, was installing a cage of fencing around an electrical substation at the Coliseum on July 23, 1994 as part of Tutor-Saliba's $100 million repair of damage from the Northridge Earthquake when he fell.

After five days of deliberations and a 26-day trial, the jury gave Francois $10 million in ``economic damages'' and $12.5 million in ``non-economic damages,'' along with $150,000 to his wife, Brenda, for loss of sexual companionship caused by his injury.

``It helps make life a little easier,'' said Francois, who cautioned that appeals and other delays will delay any payment to him for years. ``I won the battle. I don't know about the war yet.''

George Dale, a partner for the firm that represented Tutor-Saliba, said neither the company nor his firm would comment on the jury decision. Ron Tutor, Tutor-Saliba's president, was gone Friday and other officials there did not return calls.

In its verdict, the jury apportioned 15 percent of the blame for the accident to Alcorn Fence and 5 percent of the blame to Francois himself, which will reduce the award amount and Tutor's liability, said Larry Grassini, one of the Woodland Hills attorneys who represented Francois.

In addition, the State Compensation Insurance Fund will be repaid more than $1 million in medical care that Francois already has received underWorkers' Compensation insurance, Grassini said.

But Grassini said the judgment will pay for the full-time medical care that Francois will need for the rest of his life because he is confined to a wheelchair with no use of his legs and only limited use of his arms. He has virtually no control over his fingers and cannot perform fine motor skills.

The $12.5 million in ``non-economic damages'' are for the pain and suffering Francois will continue to undergo because of the accident.

``Since I got injured two years ago, my wife and I had a pretty rough go of it and I'm going to try to make the best of it,'' Francois said.

Tutor-Saliba is one of the region's most prominent construction companies, handling not only the Coliseum repair project but building the first leg of the Metro Red Line subway in downtown Los Angeles.

Last year, Tutor-Saliba took over construction of the Vermont Avenue portion of the Red Line's second segment after the original contractor was fired following a series of mishaps and safety problems.

Originally, Francois also sued the city and county of Los Angeles, the city Department of Water and Power and the Coliseum Commission. All four defendants were excused from the case in June by Superior Court Judge Alexander Williams III.

Tutor-Saliba-Perini LA Subway Worker Killed by Falling Half-Ton Bin
Red Line: First fatality during massive project comes on heels of six other serious incidents in last two months. Victim was part of crew working under Hollywood Boulevard.
February 16, 1997|KEN ELLINGWOOD and JON D. MARKMAN | TIMES STAFF WRITERS
http://articles.latimes.com/1997-02-16/local/me-29365_1_subway-worker

A Red Line subway construction worker died early Saturday when a suspended half-ton refuse bin broke free of its mooring and struck him in the head, causing the first fatality in the massive underground project.

The accident is the worst of numerous mishaps and safety lapses that have bedeviled the decade-old Red Line subway project. According to sources and documents obtained by The Times, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority project has experienced at least six other serious incidents in the last two months, including one Friday when a 400-pound cylinder fell on a worker in a Santa Monica Mountains tunnel.


In Saturday's incident, the worker was killed underground about 1:10 a.m. while working near a bin that was suspended by a pair of chains, said MTA spokesman Ed Scannell. One of the chains supporting the bin, called a "muck bucket," snapped and the apparatus swung free, hitting the man.

He was identified as Jaime Pasillas, 52, of Los Angeles. He was employed by Tutor-Saliba-Perini, one of the contractors hired by the MTA to build the Red Line through Hollywood.

Pasillas was part of a crew of nine workers in a section 70 feet under Hollywood Boulevard near Las Palmas Avenue. Scannell said the bucket, a rectangular bin measuring 5 feet long and 4 feet deep, is used to haul debris and tote tools and construction materials.

MTA board member John Fasaa called the accident "unacceptable and tragic."

"Our sympathies are with the miner's family and work crew," he said. "We need to find out what happened and make sure it cannot occur again."

The fatality was under investigation by several public agencies, including the California Division of Occupational Safety and Health, the MTA, police and the district attorney's office. Scannell said other details of the incident were not available because the investigation had just begun.

"At this point, it's under investigation what caused this chain to break," he said.

Investigators who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were focusing on the thickness of the chains that supported the bucket, which moved by motor along an overhead track. One side of the bucket was held up by a double strand of chain, but the broken length was a single, thinner strand, according to investigators. It was not known Saturday whether the broken strand met standards for thickness or wear.

Investigators said Pasillas had been loading the bin with wood used in pouring concrete when it broke free and crashed into his head.

Despite the fatality, Scannell said the safety record of the Red Line project compares favorably with subway projects elsewhere in the country.

"The safety record in the tunnel project is better than the national average," said Scannell. He said he did not have detailed safety statistics on hand Saturday.

*

But the tragedy, which hit two miles from the site of a giant subway-related sinkhole two years ago, is the latest in a recent string of safety lapses at a separate subway tunnel being dug through the Santa Monica Mountains by Indiana-based contractor Traylor Bros. / Frontier-Kemper, according to sources and documents obtained by The Times.

In other incidents since December:

* A Traylor Bros. worker was hospitalized Friday after he was struck in the head and shoulders by a 400-pound cylinder that fell off a digging machine.

* On Feb. 8, the driver of an underground rock-hauling train had to leap out of his moving locomotive after its brakes failed as it rolled backward down an incline, according to an MTA memorandum obtained by The Times. The train then sped back another 900 feet before slamming into a metal frame that trails the tunnel-boring machine. The locomotive driver was fired after a drug test revealed that he had recently smoked marijuana, according to two top construction officials.

* In mid-January, a Traylor Bros. crane operator accidentally dropped a load of rails 80 feet down an access shaft amid workers in Studio City, according to another top construction official who declined to be identified. No one was injured. The official said an investigation indicated that workers had improperly tied rails to the crane.

* From mid-December to late January, an electric elevator that hauls 30-ton muck cars up from the tunnel to dump trucks failed three times, sending a massive counterweight plummeting as much as 60 feet to the ground amid workers, according to investigators. No one was injured, but state safety officials and the contractor took the elevator out of service.

Those incidents prompted one construction official to express fears that workplace safety was falling prey to the push for speedy progress.

"We have some supervisors who are totally focused on production, rather than the bigger picture," the official said last week. "If we don't do something fast, someone is going to get seriously hurt or killed. This is driving us nuts."

*

The contractor involved in Saturday's incident, Tutor-Saliba-Perini, was fined $12,000 by Cal/OSHA on Feb. 4 for safety violations spotted at a subway station under construction on Vermont Avenue.

Among the violations were oxygen cylinders stored too closely to tanks of acetylene, a combustible gas used for welding. In addition, Cal/OSHA said that employees were observed walking through puddles of water that contained live electrical cords and cracked lumber was being used for scaffolding platforms.

Officials of Tutor-Saliba-Perini and Traylor Bros. were not available for comment Saturday. Officials at JMA, the consortium that oversees the construction jobs for the MTA, declined comment.

Saturday's accident occurred along a 6.6-mile stretch of the Red Line tunnel project that has been especially trouble-ridden in recent years.

In 1995, subway work caused an 80-foot-wide sinkhole along Hollywood Boulevard about two miles east of Saturday's mishap. No one was injured, but 20 workers had to flee the collapsing tunnel as dirt and water gushed in. The incident prompted criticism that project officials had risked the lives of the workers by not evacuating them when trouble became evident hours earlier.

That same Hollywood stretch has been plagued by other cases of sinking ground.

*

Last Wednesday, the MTA and a separate contractor agreed to pay $12.3 million as compensation to three welders who were severely burned in a 1994 tunnel explosion beneath Vermont Avenue and 6th Street. The Superior Court judge in the case said after the settlement that he believed testimony showed a "callous disregard" for workers' safety by the MTA and the contractor, Parsons-Dillingham.

The most recent troubles prompted fresh criticism from one prominent foe who says subway-building is too expensive and dangerous.

"We will continue to have problems as long as the MTA is putting in a subway in opposition to what the public wants," Los Angeles County Supervisor Mike Antonovich said Saturday.
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Low-...