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EASY PASS | PAST BIG DIG COVERAGE
Ex-judge to review Big Dig contracts
Pike officials eye refunds
By Sean P. Murphy, Globe Staff, 01/24/2003
esponding to huge Big Dig cost overruns, the state agency overseeing the $14.6 billion Big Dig project yesterday hired a retired state court judge to decide whether the state should press contractors to refund money for past mistakes in their work.
Edward M. Ginsburg, 70, who retired last year after 25 years as a probate court judge, takes on the task of sifting through thousands of pages of project records to determine if the state has a case against any of the more than 150 contractors hired since 1985 to work on the massive project.
The Big Dig began with an estimated cost of $2.5 billion and has grown to seven times that amount. To date, companies hired on the project have returned only $35,707 to the state for mistakes in design, construction or management, records show.
Recently, calls for "independent" reviews of the so-called cost recovery cases have come from different quarters.
Jordan Levy, vice chairman of the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority, which oversees the project, has called for a "look back" at all contracts for possible refunds. Levy has focused on the project's private sector manager, Bechtel/Parsons Brinckerhoff.
Last month, some of the contractors met with turnpike officials to voice concerns that they might be unfairly blamed for problems not of their own making. Bechtel's lawyer was among those expressing concern.
"The idea is to get an independent look at these cases, from someone outside the project, so that everyone can feel assured of fairness," said Michael Powers, the turnpike's general counsel.
Powers said the turnpike will set aside at least $1 million to pay for the "look back" effort. Ginsburg agreed to work for $53,000 a year -- the difference between his current state pension and his former salary as a judge, Powers said.
Ginsburg will recruit and hire two lawyers on a consulting basis to work full-time under his direction, Powers said.
Powers said the effort is expected to take several years.
Greg Sullivan, state inspector general, will participate in the work. "We still have time to do this, and we are dead serious about doing it," he said.
Bechtel officials have said the company has met its contractual obligations to the state, and does not owe any money back, but that Bechtel is willing to discuss any concerns raised by state officials.This story ran on page B3 in the Metro/Region section of the Boston Globe on 01/24/2003.
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