School Construction Worker Files Suit To Get Paid

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One of the five workers who said a subcontractor that worked on Payson Unified School District’s construction projects owes him money has filed a lawsuit with the Payson Regional Justice Court.

Michael Garre, who filed the lawsuit in late March, is seeking the $4,070 he says Pens Construction owes him, plus attorneys’ fees.

The five workers say the company owes them more than $16,000 collectively. However, Garre is the only one to file suit.

Some of the men say they were partially paid, and others say they received no wages at all for work completed in December and January on Julia Randall Elementary and Rim Country Middle School.

“It’s a shame because so far it’s just me taking action on all this,” Garre said. He added that the other workers can’t afford to sue.

The Phoenix phone number for Pens Construction, owned by Grady Watson, has been disconnected.

Watson wrote in a March 10 letter to the Arizona Registrar of Contractors that he never received payment for three large projects, which forced him to file bankruptcy.

As of press time, no record of bankruptcy for Watson or his company had been filed in Arizona Bankruptcy Court.

“This is a bad time for all and I’m sorry that my employee’s [sic] did not get everything coming to them in wages,” Watson wrote.

Garre said he worries that the bond construction projects will finish, the district’s main contractor W.E. O’Neil will move on, and he will never get the money he says he is owed.

“I kind of want this thing over and done with,” Garre said.

Mike Marr of W.E. O’Neil initially said he would withhold payment from Pens if the issue was not resolved by the end of February. Marr has said the dispute revolved around the number of hours worked.

Reached by phone Monday, Marr said he doesn’t have the power to withhold payment.

“It’s an issue between the subcontractor and the workers,” he said. “We don’t have any control over it.”

Payson schools Superintendent Casey O’Brien said the district’s contract is solely with W.E. O’Neil. “The district would not, and in fact, could not, take any formal position and/or action in this matter,” O’Brien wrote in an e-mail.

Two of the five men who claim unpaid wages, Garre and Rhett Melton, still have open complaints with the Arizona Registrar of Contractors. That process could lead to Pens losing its license, but court appears to be Garre’s only recourse for the payment he says he is owed.

The registrar suspended Pens Construction’s commercial license in late March, and the listing on the registrar’s Web site warns people in red that the company “may” be operating with other current licenses.

In December, Watson registered a company called Karlyle Construction. That license is still current, however the number listed for the company is the same disconnected phone number listed for Pens Construction.

Pens has a drywall license that has not been suspended.

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