Contractor blames workers, gov't for problems
PASADENA, TX Victor Blackmon seemed to have a really sweet deal. Take this new 26,000 square-foot Social Security building in Pasadena. It's one of dozens Blackmon's construction company built across America, with a guarantee in advance that Uncle Sam would lease them for decades. "They had a cash cow going on dealing with the government," said John Perry, an unpaid subcontractor. The rent in one building is $55,000 a month to be paid until the year 2025. Taxpayers have already paid more than a million dollars in rent, but you notice something funny when you take a close look inside. "My constituents see the same thing you did last night," Congressman Gene Green said. All the lights are on at night, but no one is home. The building is vacant. It was supposed to open in the spring of 2008, two years ago. "For at least two years, we've been working on this, and we still haven't seen it open," Green said. The new regional director of the General Services Administration is J.D. Salinas. "We will take full responsibility for that," Salinas said. "That's exactly what happened." And Victor Blackmon knows why it's not open. But when 13 Undercover's Wayne Dolcefino asked him, "What's the deal?" Blackmon would only say, "Mr. Dolcefino, I told you I was not going to discuss this on an interview." The building was flooded by Hurricane Ike because the roof leaked. "The hurricane just fast-forwarded the issues we would have soon seen even if we didn't have a hurricane," Salinas said. Yet it was GSA which had inspected and approved the building just days earlier. The new Social Security office in Brenham leaked so bad, it had mold, just like the one in Wichita Falls. All were built by Victor Blackmon's Carotex Construction. "A string of buildings involving the same people over and over again, with the same results," Perry said. "Something is wrong somewhere. I'd like to say I smell a rat, but I've run out of time and energy to find the rat." The wind whips the American flag outside the Social Security office in Topeka, Kansas. "Pardon the Kansas language. My retirement is shot to hell because of my involvement in the Social Security project," Perry said. John Perry was the Kansas contractor Carotex used to build its project in Topeka. "The whole thing is wrong," Perry said. "The whole thing is wrong." The building was finished on time, except more than a dozen Kansas contractors say they were never paid by Carotex. "It's a shame that all these local people have been left with a real sour taste in their mouth," Perry said. Courts ruled John Perry's company alone was owed $215,000 on a project built for the US Government. "We felt like if worst comes to worst, the government wouldn't leave us to dry," Perry said. "As it worked out, we were left out to hang out to dry." "It's an unfortunate scenario, but our contract is with the general contractor," Salinas said, "and we can't control who he pays and doesn't pay, unfortunately." But that means liens have been placed on leased federal offices across the country. They could be foreclosed on. Wait. In Kansas, it gets better. While the federal government is paying its monthly rent at about $25,000 a month, the owners of this building are behind on county taxes to Shawnee County to the tune of about $200,000. "We're a mom-and-pop operation. It destroyed me; yeah, emotionally, physically, financially," Perry said. And now John Perry is leaving his 45 acres in Kansas. "I just can't take the heartache of driving by that building day after day and seeing what's turned into a huge fiasco in my personal life," Perry said. "It's driven to my knees." Now you know why Social Security has been so reluctant to move into that new building on Watters Street, and maybe why Victor Blackmon didn't welcome our visit to Franklin, Texas. "Do you think taxpayers deserve an explanation?" Dolcefino asked Blackmon as he drove off. "I think he and a whole lot of people have gotten over on the government," Perry said. Mr. Blackmon claims the government and subcontractors like John Perry are really to blame for his problems. He no longer owns a piece of the Pasadena building. But wait until you find out who does tomorrow night on Eyewitness News at 10.