The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has reached plea agreements in two cases in which a contractor was accused of paying workers less than the required wage on publicly financed projects.
Art Rafati, who owns Artistic Construction Inc., allegedly underpaid four employees on a curb and sidewalk project in Center Township. Rafati, 64, pleaded guilty to one count of theft, a class D felony, and four counts of Common Construction Wage violation, a class B misdemeanor.
In a separate case, drywall contractor David Roark pleaded guilty to a theft charge for underpaying for work on the Barton Towers remodeling project in downtown Indianapolis.
The Marion County Prosecutor's Office has pursued three cases alleging Common Construction Wage violations since 2011. The Common Construction Wage is a rate of pay specified by local committees for any state or locally funded projects over $350,000. Rates are set for three classes of worker: skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled.
“The significance of this is not only individual employees not getting paid what they’re owed, but the contractors and subcontractors who play by the rules can’t effectively bid against those who go into it knowing they’re going to cheat,” said Marion County Prosecutor Terry Curry.
A contractor can afford to under-bid for a project knowing they are going to make that money back by not paying their employees the Common Construction Wage, Curry said.
In 2011, the Marion County Prosecutor's Office obtained the state's first conviction in a common-wage case, against White River Mechanical, a subcontractor for two Indianapolis Public Schools projects.
Prosecutors in 2013 brought charges against Roark, who has agreed to pay the workers $24,311 in restitution. His company, D. Roark Drywall LLC, landed a $417,607 contract on the project. He allegedly paid some employees as little as $12 per hour, when his contract required he pay a minimum common wage plus fringe benefits of $39.91 per hour.
The County Prosecutor’s Office alleges Rafati failed to pay four employees the Common Construction Wage on a city project for curbs, sidewalks and ramp replacement and repair in Center Township.
Rafati is scheduled for an initial hearing this week. As a part of his plea agreement, he has agreed to pay $9,175 in restitution to the victims.
Each town or county is responsible for setting the Common Construction Wage at a publicly held committee hearing. As of July 1, 2011, the wage scales adopted by the local committees cover all construction projects within three months of the scale's adoption.