IDOT Investigates Trail of Tax Dollars Meant For Minorities

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ST. LOUIS, MO (KPLR)-- IDOT wants answers from one of its contractors on the Mississippi River Bridge.  It involves millions of your tax dollars, meant for minority owned businesses.  Investigative reporter Chris Hayes found the contractor questioned, was one of the most vocal in calling for the project to be shut down.

Bill Mason Sr. from Mason Landscaping, was at the forefront of the 2011 threat to shut down the bridge project if IDOT didn`t hire more minorities.  Now his company is being questioned about whether it`s relying on white owned firms.

IDOT investigators are looking into a dirt excavation project that surrounds I-55.  It's the future sight of the Mississippi River Bridge approach in Illinois.  It's a $1.5 million contract that went to Mason Landscaping & Construction.  The company is half owned by Bill Mason Sr., who demanded IDOT hire more minorities during a protest last September.  Now IDOT is demanding his company`s presence in Springfield, IL Tuesday, September 11th.  An IDOT IDOT letter says regulators need answers to issues raised regarding "(your) reliance upon a non-disadvantaged firm when performing work contracted to your firm."

Part owner Bill Mason Jr. says he`s not relying on anyone.  He said, "We perform 100% of our own work.  We have certified payroll. I have lease agreements.  I have rental agreements that we paid for out of my office, for every piece of equipment you see on my job site."

Mason Jr. says State investigators are just confused.  He claims they`re looking at white owned companies doing work up above him.  He says that`s not his work.  He says his job is a very specific section where his company is working.

Mason added, "It`s pretty clear cut and we have any type of documentation they want to see to back us up."
Chris Hayes asked, "Why would they be confused about who`s doing the work?"
Mason Jr. "I really don`t know because inspectors are out here every day or at least 3 times a week to interview my workers."

He says IDOT also questions whether his company is really doing the job at another site costing taxpayers $2.2 million.  However, he says that in every one of his bridge contracts - the money meant for minority business is getting there.

I asked, "It`s not being filtered to a white company?"
Mason Jr., "No, it`s going 100% to Mason`s Landscaping and Construction services."
Hayes, "And you`re prepared to prove this tomorrow."
Mason Jr., "That`s exactly right.  We`ll be there with all our documents to prove this tomorrow."

He says he`s confident he can convince regulators and he agrees it`s important they make sure businesses claiming to be disadvantaged - are truly disadvantaged.

An IDOT spokesman said he could not discuss this case because it`s an active investigation.

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