By TIM ROWDEN
The St. Louis Police Officers Association (POA) has joined IBEW Local 1 bannering the new St. Louis police headquarters at 1915 Olive Street to protest the fact that a man who is a convicted embezzler is the license holder for the company doing electrical work on the project.
The man is Thomas R. Ruzicka, who, according to state records, is the license holder, officer and/or director for RE Contracting, the electrical subcontractors on the police HQ project. Tri-Co General Contracting is the general contractor on the project.
Local 1 began bannering the project on Nov. 21. They were joined last week by members of the POA.
“It’s refreshing to have support from the POA, who are the men and women who are going to be working inside of the police facility,” Local 1 Business Manager Frank Jacobs said, adding that Local 1 was also posting a billboard on Highway 40 leading into downtown to alert the public to Ruzicka’s involvement with the project.
Ruzicka and the companies he’s been associated with have a checkered history with the law.
• In 2010, Ruzicka pled guilty in federal court to embezzling more than $100,000 from his employees at Ruzicka Electric and Sons, Inc., sometimes referred to as “Ruzicka Electric.” He was sentenced to two-years’ probation and ordered into a drug and alcohol abuse treatment program.
•Records from Case.net, the state of Missouri's public judicial records website, show that from 2010 through the present RE Contracting repeatedly failed to pay state taxes and unemployment contributions on time.
• While Thomas Ruzicka was operating Ruzicka Electric & Sons, the Missouri Department of Labor cited the company several times for state prevailing wage violations, including for the firm’s work on Carnahan Middle School in the City of St. Louis. The company failed to pay employees more than $140,000 in wages and benefits for work on that project.
• Prior to the dissolution of Ruzicka Electric & Sons , various creditors and suppliers obtained judgments against Ruzicka Electric & Sons while the Missouri Department of Revenue and Division of Employer Security filed multiple liens and certificates against the firm for unpaid taxes and/or unpaid unemployment contributions.
Jacobs said Local 1 presented the City of St. Louis with details of Ruzicka’s checkered past with the law and issues concerning the companies he has been associated with.
Jeff Rainford, chief of staff for Mayor Francis Slay, said the City attempted to have Tri-Co remove RE Contracting as the subcontractor after learning of the prevailing wage issue, but a lawyer for RE Contracting informed the City that the matter had been “cleaned up,” and the City had no legal standing to debar the company.
FELON IN POLICE HQ
“This is about more than just assuring that we have quality union workmanship in the new headquarters. It’s also about who’s doing the work,” Jeff Roorda, business manager for the St. Louis Police Officers Association said.
“Some have suggested that he’s already paid his debt to society,” Roorda said. “But I don't’ think being behind closed doors in a sensitive police building is where we need to rehabilitate felons.”
Weather permiting, Jacobs said the banners will remain up at the new police headquarters building until the issue is resolved.
ALDERWOMAN ASKING QUESTIONS
Democratic Alderwoman Christine Ingrassia, Ward 6, met with Jacobs and other officials from Local 1 and has taken their concerns and the information they shared to the Mayor’s Office and the Board of Public Service.
Ingrassia said she also was considering introducing a resolution in the Board of Alderman calling in witnesses to explain how Ruzicka was allowed to become involved in the project.
“It seems alarming to me that somebody with this track record is allowed to do business in the city,” Ingrassia said. “I want to make sure that it doesn't happen again.”