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Article published April 2, 2014
Report critical of VA’s actions on building facility
The process by which an Ohio developer won the contract to build a $74 million Veteran’s Affairs facility in Butler Township was ripe with misrepresentations and short on vetting, alleges a report issued this week. That contract, awarded in 2012 to Westar Development to build the complex on the South Duffy Road lot known as Deshon Woods, has since been voided. Officials are yet to determine the who, what and where of the facility’s future. They previously have said they are looking at other developers and would issue a decision this spring. Meanwhile, the 55-page report by the Department of Veterans Affairs Office of Inspector General on Monday says it is a summary of an investigate that went awry in the failed original agreement. The report points to the VA’s decision to award a contract to a developer with property instead of making separate arrangements for the contractor and the site. By dropping a step in the normal process, the report alleges the VA gave an advantage to Westar, which had rights to the Deshon Woods site, then owned by Butler Township. Already two years earlier, the VA investigated available property in the area and ranked Deshon Woods as its top choice. The report goes on to allege that Westar, when graded against five other applicants, was awarded points in the bidding process for claims that were not true. Among the problematic claims: Westar was credited for its representations that it was “100 percent veteran-owned,” when no veterans were involved in the company. Westar was credited for a list of past projects when “we determined Westar had not developed a single project since its inception in 1998,” the report states. And on Westar’s general contractor, the report states: “Westar received points on the qualifications of a general contractor that we found was not capable of building the Butler health care center.” But the VA on May 31, 2012, agreed to a 20-year lease with a total value of $153 million. Then the report alleges the VA failed to properly investigate a complaint about the contract award. In June 2012, one of the unsuccessful bidders alleged that Westar should have been disqualified because of it’s relationship with Robert Berryhill. Robert Berryhill, who was the founder and majority owner of Westar, was indicted on charges of stealing money from two firms while serving as the senior vice president at another company. He has since been sentenced to up to six years and four months in federal prison. In March 2013, the investigator general received a complaint that Westar also had financial ties to Ohio contractor Michael Forlani. Forlani, who was sentenced to serve eight years in prison for convictions of bribery and racketeering in 2011, was forbid from government contracting. “Our review determined Michael Forlini was involved in the Butler health care center from the beginning,” the report states. Work on the project was stopped in July 2013.