By ROB MORITZ
Arkansas News Bureau
LITTLE ROCK — A state lawmaker suggested Thursday that a company may have used undocumented workers for a project on the state Capitol grounds.
Rep. Jim Nickels, D-Sherwood, made the assertion as the Senate Committee on State Agencies and Governmental Affairs discussed his bill to require the state Contractor Licensing Board to suspend or revoke the licenses of contractors who knowingly hire illegal immigrants.
Nickels said a subcontractor, believed to be S&G Contractors of Beebe, used illegal immigrants to do some work on the nearly $5 million project to transform the old state library space in the Multi-Agency Complex on the Capitol mall into meeting rooms and office space for the state House and Bureau of Legislative Research employees.
He said the subcontractor also never paid its workers.
“My bill, I hope will address that issue,” Nickels said. “It’s evident in this bill that contractors who exploit the undocumented lose if this bill passes.”
During the meeting, committee members quizzed Anne Laidlaw, director of the Arkansas Building Authority, who said she was unaware of the allegations until this week.
Laidlaw said the main contractor for the project, VCC LLC, which has an office in Little Rock, did follow state law by verifying that its employees were not undocumented immigrants.
Brad Davis with VCC told the committee he also just learned about Nickels’ allegations and that he did not know if S&G had properly completed the necessary paperwork for its workers.
Sen. Sue Madison, D-Fayetteville, chairman of the committee, said the panel would take up the matter, along with Nickels’ bill, when it reconvenes Monday. The House and Senate will not meet Friday.
Denise Oxley, general counsel for the state Department of Labor, said later Thursday that her office was investigating an anonymous complaint that S&G had not paid its employees “the prevailing wage” on the Capitol project but declined further comment on the probe.
Oxley said the department was not investigating whether S&G had hired illegal immigrants.
No one with S&G Contractors could be reached for comment Thursday. The company has no telephone directory listing.