Pennsylvania union requests Fagen pay documents

By Craig A. Johnson | October 06, 2009
Report posted Oct. 29, 2009, at 4:27 p.m. CST

The Greater Pennsylvania Regional Council of Carpenters recently requested to view all of the certified payroll documents for the Bionol Ethanol Clearfield Plant. The corn-based ethanol plant, which is being constructed by Fagen Inc. and is expected to be finished by the end of November, is located in Clearfield County, Penn. However, it is being built largely by workers from out of state, a common practice for ethanol construction projects.

Pennsylvania's Right to Know Act of 2008 states that any resident of the state is allowed to see the posted wages of any institution that receives state funds. The law also requires companies keep records of their posted wages if they take state funds. According to Rick Tomlinson, president of the GPRCC, because Bionol Clearfield LLC received more than $14 million in state grants, it must comply with the law. "[The union] doesn't care about a lot of personal information, we just want to take a look at the pay records," he said. "Under the state law, there's no reason those records weren't kept accurately for the last 18 months."

Clearfield County Commissioners initially denied the union's request for the records, because the county did not have them. The GPRCC filed an appeal with the Pennsylvania Office of Open Records, which ruled that the union is entitled to the documents.

Bionol, through its attorney, agreed to comply with the request and provide the documents, but added a difficult stipulation. Bionol's attorney, Peter Carlucci Jr., said the company would provide the more than 6,000 pages of payroll documents, but only if the county paid $1 per page. The fee is designed to offset the cost of redacting information such as employee social security numbers and other personal information, according to Carlucci.

During the recession, Clearfield County was one of the hardest hit regions in the state. According to Tomlinson, many workers in the Clearfield area were asked to submit their names and contact information as part of a first step in a bidding process for work at the plant. "As far as I know, none of them were ever contacted," he said.