Beckley seeks injunction concerning prevailing wage law

By Cara Bailey | Apr 16, 2007

CHARLESTON - The City of Beckley has filed a lawsuit against the West Virginia Department of Labor and David Mullins, seeking an injunction and declaratory judgment concerning the renovation project on Neville Street.

The suit, filed by attorney Ricklin Brown, seeks a declaratory judgment seeking to enjoin the respondents from unlawfully imposing West Virginia prevailing wage law to a entirely federally funded construction project.

In 2004 and 2005, Beckley, through Mayor Emmett S. Pugh III, applied for federal Economic Development Initiative grant funds from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, in order to fund the construction projects related to the "Beckley Uptown Revitalization, Neville Street" project.

This phase of the project focused on the renovation of two buildings, 325 and 401 Neville Street. HUD awarded the city EDI grant funds in the amount of $1,491,150 in 2004 and $744,000 in 2005, for exterior renovation of the two Neville Street buildings and interior renovations to one of the Neville Street buildings.

According to federal law, EDI grand funds are not subject to the federal prevailing wage law.

Affiliated Construction Trades Foundation (ACT) wrote to Larry Walker, Director of the Wage and Hour Division of the West Virginia Division of Labor on Jan. 9, 2007, requesting a determination whether the construction project was subject to West Virginia prevailing wages.

Walker responded that the construction project is subject to prevailing wages.

According to the lawsuit filed, because the construction project being bid out is wholly federally funded and not subject to federal prevailing wage law, Thomas Acker, the executive director of Forward Southern West Virginia, wrote a letter to Walker, informing him that he disagreed with the application of West Virginia prevailing wages.

The suit says on Feb. 1, 2007, Walker again provided written documentation, stating the Division of Labor's position that West Virginia Prevailing Wage laws apply and further, that failure to pay such wages would result in the Division imposing penalties for willful violation of state law.

Through counsel, the city submitted a written objection, dated Feb. 5, 2007, to the Division of Labor's determination that West Virginia prevailing wages apply to the construction project. The city provided that the construction project does not require the expenditure of any "public funds of the State of West Virginia, in whole or in part," the suit says.

The City of Beckley requests an order permanently enjoining the defendants from imposing West Virginia prevailing wage laws on the wholly federally funded construction projects related to the Beckley Uptown Revitalization, Neville Street project.

The case has been assigned to Judge Louis Bloom.

Kanawha Circuit Court case number 07-C-697

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