Environmental consultants accused of trying to rig prices for cleanup jobs will pay the state more than $250,000, the state Attorney General's Office said Tuesday.
Mid-Atlantic Associates of Raleigh is barred from bidding on Department of Environment and Natural Resources contracts for 18 months, under an agreement that Business Court Judge Ben Tennille approved this week.
The company was one of eight that state Attorney General Roy Cooper sued in April 2003. The suit accused the companies and a private trade association of working together to inflate prices on future contracts for cleaning up pollution from leaking underground fuel tanks.
About a year ago, Cooper added claims that Mid-Atlantic and president/co-owner Darin McClure planned to overcharge the state for work done by subcontractors.
Seven companies have now settled their cases, and the state has collected $735,000.
As part of its settlement, Mid-Atlantic will pay the state $180,000. McClure will pay $60,000, and company vice president and co-owner Thomas A. Proctor will pay $10,000.
McClure released a statement saying: "Our decision to settle this case was in no way based on the merits of the case, but on what we felt was ultimately best for the long-term stability of our business, which employs more than 25 people in North Carolina, and the interests of our clients."
Under the agreement, Mid-Atlantic, McClure and Proctor are prohibited from rigging bids and submitting requests for payment that fail to disclose kickbacks, the Justice Department said.
The trade group, the N.C. Environmental Service Providers Association, agreed to pay the state $5,000 and is prohibited from helping companies conspire to rig bids.
"These groups cooked up a scheme to cheat taxpayers and make an unfair profit off of cleaning up our land and water," Cooper said in a statement.
CBM Environmental Services of Fort Mill, S.C., its owner, and a former director of the trade association still face charges.
The state spends millions a year from a special fund to remove leaking underground petroleum tanks and clean up the land and water they have polluted.
Staff writer Lynn Bonner can be reached at 829-4821 or firstname.lastname@example.org.