HRP Associates, Inc.
|American Arbitration Association
Case No. 01-16-0001-1885
August 29, 2016
An Edit of the Arbitration Case filed 8/29/2016
HRP Associates Inc. (HRP) is a Licensed Environmental Professional (LEP) firm that offers fraud in defense of the breach of contract claim, namely a fraudulent invoice for $8,325.90 dated September 15, 2015 Claimant 1 . There was a more detailed invoice with a Termination of LEP Services notification letter dated March 6, 2015 Claimant 2 written to avoid returning a $3000 retainer. Between 2010 and 2012 the Compatible Computers had three times deposited $3000 payments to HRP for earlier work completed. The Respondent Regional Manager Scot Kuhn misremembered the amount of the retainer in March of 2015 and tripled down with a September 2015 fraud six months later and 19 months after all work ceased.
The letters accompanying both fraudulent invoices contain similar generosity not to charge more than the retainer received. The March 2015 invoice says “While the costs … have exceeded the retainer amount … you owe nothing further at this time” (C- 2, page 2 paragraph 3) and in the September invoice “The total cost to date … was $8,325.90. The balance of $325.90 will not be invoiced to you.” (C- 1 page 2 final paragraph) Clear fraud and clearly business as usual as well as a clear violation of CGS Sec. 53a-290 when a business “presents for payment any false claim for goods or services performed”. Investigations by the State’s Attorney may find other criminal charges.
HRP’s lawyer Mary Bartholic of Cohn Birnbaum & Shea PC is not paying attention, forgetting appointments and showing up to court without reading briefs. There has been no offer of settlement or specific acknowledgement of the claims of fraud. Perhaps she won’t respond to this claim. Perhaps the negligence is calculated, that if she appears not to be following she can appear ethical. Perhaps the amount of money involved is considered spent on a legal retainer and HRP tells her to postpone returning the retainer as long as possible. Clearly HRP will not take action against their employees’ malfeasance without a clear opinion from this arbitration and/or a future criminal or civil fraud case.
Whatever the reason the Respondent is using HRP resources to defend a fraud, and fraud is the precipitating factor leading to this legal action and this arbitration and the costs of this action so far are $1,635.30, plus interest on $8,000 for nearly three years C-3. Note the Respondent forced this arbitration with a Motion in Superior Court C-4 and a motion from the Claimant for inexpensive Summary Judgment is still pending C-5.
There is nothing in which explicitly calls for the forfeit or the return of a retainer or for sharing costs of any necessary legal action. In legal cases ethics and fairness are secondary to a large body of law against such brazen avarice because in court (or arbitration) the reprehensible can be considered in a civilized manner. Such fraud cases do not so much seek justice but rather fines of up to $10,000 and imprisonment of 1 to 10 years, widely considered a deterrent to such fraud.
If I decide not to deliver a service or a product I certainly and automatically return any monies paid. As well as moral and legal considerations I would not be long in business if I did not see the evident justice of such a simple principle. A professional arbitrator might frequently encounter cases seeking the return of unearned monies and see an area of dispute about facts and seek to help justice be served even if a reputation for justice is won which will lose such an Arbitrator future income from powerful clients. Here we clearly see criminal intent by re-writing a $3,000 invoice for $8,325.90 which alone is a Class C Felony. If the Respondent had not brazenly re-written the invoice for nearly triple the worth with no additional documentation, 18 months after all work ceased, for greed alone, we would not be here. People in positions of unwarranted power caught in brazen avarice should face their actions even if they are cleaning the world of contaminants.
On December 2, 2015, the Respondent filed in Superior Court the Motion to Stay Proceedings Pending Arbitration and attached Exhibit 1 (C-4 pages 10-20) which the Respondent called “The Agreement” in Superior Court documents. This agreement was signed December 3, 2013, along with the retainer check of $8,000. The Respondent received the retainer on December 9 (C- 1 end of first paragraph).
Exhibit 1 is attached to the Agreement (C-4 pages 10-20) part of which outlines the Respondent’s proposals or “Scope of Services” (C-4 pages 10-14). The Agreement also includes some of the email communication and negotiations that brought us to the $8,000 retainer (Pages 18-20 of C-4, NB page 18 portion underlined by the Respondent).
By the time Task 1, the Remedial Action Plan or RAP (C-6) was prepared (February 2014) the Claimant and Respondents knew it would not be filed with the Connecticut DEEP and all plans for work had ceased. The March 6, 2015 invoice (over a year after all work was stopped) charges $463.50 for the RAP, Task 1 on page 3 of C- 2. Agreement C-4 page 14 states “Task 5: Reporting and Project Management Upon completion of Task 2 (emphasis mine) HRP will prepare a Remedial Action Report…” Task 2 is Remediation Oversight and there was no remediation hence no oversight. So charges for Task 2 and Task 5 are suspicious.
The bulk of the March 2015 invoice, $3,267 of the $3,445.84, minus an unexplained “Professional Courtesy Discount”, is charged to “Task 05 Reporting,Product Managemnt & SEH Filing” C- 2 top of page 4. Claimant – 1 September 5, 2015, invoice charges $3,387.55 for “Additional Approved tasks” which might be considered a similar figure if not for the unexplained discount and three bullet items that appear nowhere else.
First of the bullets is the “SEH Reporting Requirement” without explaining the charges. Secondly is “Tailoring public notice letter with well questionnaire and review of responses”. If that means emailing me the language of the letters I sent, and then receiving the responses when I mailed them back to the Respondent then yes, they did that in December of 2013, 21 months earlier. Details of my work are registered in C-7 Edited Emails and copies of the mail receipts are in C-6 pages 12-26. I did the work and was charged by the Respondent $1,269.05 for “tailoring” and “review of” my work. The final item, “review of your correspondence with the CT DEEP” was $830. I emailed the Respondent a copy of a two page letter I sent the DEEP and apparently the Respondent read it.
Suspiciously the bulk of the charges in the September fraudulent invoice are Tasks 1 & 2 ($4,938.35) but in the March invoice nearly the entire invoice, $3,267.00 minus a mysterious discount, is “Task 05” (C- 2 the very first line of the last page). Compare $463.50 the RAP charge in March with $2,376.16 for the RAP in September “and review of Completion Investigation Form status”. If $463.50 is the charge for the RAP it sounds like I am being charged the difference between those two figures or $1,912.66 for “review of Completion Investigation Form status” or looking at the returned questionnaires.
A detailed comparison of both invoices shows a myriad inconsistency worth ridicule but not serious consideration. The Respondent is not engaged, out to lunch, on autopilot, lazy but greedy. Neither invoice is intended to be examined. Rather they were written for any amount higher than the retainer, a slammed door, believing everything will be soon forgotten and there is no penalty for fraud in their company.
Beyond the fraud and the negligence, there were problems with the work that was contracted. The February 2014 26 page and unusable RAP (C-6) contains serious errors. For several years and through countless proposals and estimates, with a two year deadline approaching, I believed that I could complete one of the two HRP required projects. In 2002 an amount of lead EPA guidelines classify as “reportable” was detected in a soil sample. I convinced HRP that I could use my own workers to “remediate” the “contaminate” and put it in a covered barrel while HRP sent samples to a lab. This would save me some $40,000 from previous HRP project estimates. On December 3, 2013 the main issue was that the Respondent supervise my workers who were not trained in handling lead. See C-7 the part about what Scot and I “envisioned” at the end of page 3 onto page 4.
The area to be remediated in the “final” RAP C-6 page 11 (in pink) if drawn to scale is, as email confirms, 10 x 10 feet but there is an area marked out by the HRP Geologist Mark Gaugan in a five minute visit as approximately 5 feet square
photo. In the March 2015 invoice I was charged $444.16 presumably for the hour round trip it took the geologist to mark out the area, including $14.11 travel expenses and some suspicious word processing charges.
Claimant 7 Edited Email page 3 we have a detailed explanation of the estimated charges from Scot Kuhn: “Our revised Task 3 cost to prepare the required notice, coordinate and work with your contractor, supervise the excavation, collect confirmation and waste characterization samples, and provide you and your contractor with the results would be reduced to about $8,500. You (or your contractor) will be responsible for the site structures, utility markout, excavation, backfill, pavement restoration, transportation & disposal of soils.” Absolutely none of what is listed above was begun much less completed except the notices, which I did. When I signed the Agreement C-4 page 17 I hand wrote “as explained in email”. The above passage was the explanation I had in mind.
The email the Respondent included as the Agreement, C-4, bottom of page 18, covers the day the agreement is reached, and as such shows I am immediately “disappointed” that work will be postponed for reasons previously undisclosed despite years of planning.
HRP has been involved with this property since contacted by Eugene Luciano in 2002. Mr. Luciano has since deceased, but he told me he spent $20,000 with them. They prepared Phase I and Phase II reports for Gene and I had previously contracted with HRP for the final Phase III, for which they were paid. The disputed $8000 retainer was paid toward finishing work recommended in Phase II and Phase III which I expected to begin work immediately. Not coincidentally in August of 2010 I paid $3,000, the following month $3,300, and in February of 2012, $3,100. The $3,000 figure stuck with Scot Kuhn when he was writing my invoice in March, 2015.
I assume the Project Manager’s .75 hours for this work is carefully documented but 2 hours of word processing is suspicious. The Markout was time charged to the Geologist, presumably the five minute visit in December 2013, and represents 1 hour at $140 and the only on-site visit and so word processing has no explanation. The fraudulent September 15, 2015 invoice charges $814.11 for “Site Markout” with no mention of word processing.
Claimant 7 email shows that I prepared and mailed certified letters and public notices. The final page of the C- 2 March invoice charges me a total of $1.55 for postage and reproduction but the Respondent claims more than 7 hours of word processing. C-6 the 26 page RAP’s final 14 pages contains copies of some of the documents I prepared and sent. If the Respondent acknowledges the existence of the March 2015 invoice at all certainly the Respondent will then explain over 7 hours of word processing charges when they produced a single 26 page document that has only three pages of word processing, C-5 pages 5-7. The rest is copy and paste of previously prepared and already paid-for documents on file with the Respondent. The September 2015 invoice purports to detail what was done on its final page “Tailoring public notice letter with the well questionnaire and review of responses” for which I was charged $1,269.05. There is no specific claim of word processing in the September fraud.
Through the Freedom of Information Act I received invoices from my Torrington Mayor’s office about a news item in 2014. Our town hired HRP to “clean up” an area to be used as a 41 space parking lot which the town bought for the amount of one dollar. After spending $787,347.64 with HRP it became apparent that the town needed an additional one million dollars, or more, for HRP to finish. Attached is a copy of some of the accounting which shows Management logging 50 hours, geologists over 200 hours and word processing hardly 5 hours.
Regardless how the Respondent counts the charges against the $8000 retainer there is significant fraud evident in the invoices presented.
No information to which the Claimant is party in this arbitration is confidential or privileged.
I request from Arbitration a specific comparison and a characterization of the two fraudulent invoices Claimant 1 compared with pages 3 and 4 of Claimant 2.