VERMONT - Construction companies doing business in Vermont are obligated to insure workers against potential accidents. Still, some try to wriggle out of regulations in hopes of saving a buck. But as a slew of ongoing investigations demonstrate, the state is putting its foot down.
Most recently, State Attorney General William Sorrell busted Glenn Vaillancourt - owner of St. Albans-based North Country Roofing - for falsifying insurance papers and failing to provide workers' compensation insurance for his employees. According to Steve Monahan, director of the state's Workers' Compensation & Safety Division, authorities began investigating Vaillancourt three or four years ago at the request of a local general contractor. Vaillancourt pled guilty in Franklin County District Court on October 16 and was sentenced to 120 hours of community service, along with a 36-month suspended jail sentence.
The case reflects how the nature and scope of workers' comp investigations are changing. In July, a new law - S.196 - was enacted. The law stiffens fines against negligent companies and makes workers' compensation records more accessible to the public.
Since S.196 went into effect, four complaints have been filed by Damon Hall, an industry analyst with the New England-wide Iron Workers Local 7 union. At least two of Hall's complaints resulted in citations. One company, Duquette's Steel and Structural Fabrication of Plattsburgh, N.Y., allegedly performed work on the Williston fire station with insurance that wasn't recognized by the state. Another, Double A Construction of Winston-Salem, N.C., allegedly committed the same offense while building a Lowe's Home Improvement Center in South Burlington.
Both companies have since come into compliance with Vermont law, but they're still under "active investigation" by the Vermont Department of Banking, Insurance, Securities and Health Care Administration and the Workers' Compensation & Safety Division for insurance fraud. If the companies are found guilty, they could be socked with several thousand dollars in fines. The state is also investigating another contractor, but would not provide details on that case.
Francis Duquette of Duquette's Steel did not return a phone call seeking comment. Reached at his office in North Carolina, Mac Bond - the certified public accountant for Double A Construction - also would not comment on the investigation. "It sounds to me like somebody is slandering somebody," he says.