By Wally Kennedy
JOPLIN, Mo. —
Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster and Jasper County Prosecuting Attorney Dean Dankelson today filed charges against Urban Metropolitan Development (UMD) of Atlanta, Ga., and its project manager Jennifer Taylor. The company and Taylor are each charged in Jasper County Circuit Court with five counts of failure to pay prevailing wage.
Both UMD and Taylor also were charged with ten felony counts of forgery for allegedly altering copies of checks before submitting them to the state as proof that the company paid its workers prevailing wage, as required by law.
“It has been an important goal of the Attorney General’s Office to ensure that no individuals profit unfairly from the tragedy of the Joplin tornado,” Koster said. “Today we are alleging that a company hired to help the city’s schools move forward took advantage of the situation by knowingly paying workers less than the prevailing wage and forging documents to cover it up.”
About 20 employees of UMD are identified in a probable cause statement as being underpaid.
Felony forgery is punishable by up to seven years in prison as well as fines up to $5,000 for individuals and $10,000 for businesses. Each instance of failure to pay prevailing wage carries a fine of up to $500 or up to 6 months in prison, or both.
UMD received contracts to demolish three schools that were destroyed by the May 2011 tornado — Irving Elementary School, Old South Middle School and Joplin High School.