Dayton pulls contract after concerns about company’s criminal history

The city of Dayton recently pulled a proposed contract with Evans Landscaping after city management learned that company officials years ago were convicted of defrauding another municipal government in southwest Ohio.

The Dayton City Commission at its last weekly meeting was expected to vote on a nearly $1.5 million contract with Cincinnati-based Evans Landscaping for a stream restoration project for Wolf Creek.

The proposed project seeks to restore a degraded segment of Wolf Creek in the city that is adjacent to the Wesleyan MetroPark and Adventure Central education center in northwest Dayton, said Joe Weinel, the city’s chief engineer.

“The project will relocate Wolf Creek to its original location and stabilize the eroding stream bank,” he said. “The eroding stream bank is compromising the stability of the city-owned Northwest Rail Line.”

City staff said Evans submitted the lowest and best bid for the project.

But at the most recent city commission meeting, City Manager Shelley Dickstein said the city was pulling the proposed agreement with the company from the agenda because of concerns about its criminal record.

Dickstein said the city’s law department will review the proposed agreement and complete additional legal analysis to provide a recommendation about possible next steps.

She said the law department will explore the city’s options, like whether to rebid the contract.

Dickstein said the city’s bid process requires city staff to look back three years to see if companies that submit bids have criminal records and legal problems.

Evans Landscaping’s owner, Doug Evans, and vice president of operations, Jim Bailey, were convicted of fraud following a federal jury trial in December 2018.

Doug Evans was sentenced to 21 months in prison in early 2020 for defrauding the city of Cincinnati and other public entities. Bailey was sentenced to three years of probation.

Dickstein said these criminal convictions were outside of the three-year lookback.

Evans Landscaping, Evans himself and Bailey were convicted of two counts of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and three counts of wire fraud, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office of the Southern District of Ohio.

Evans Landscaping created and controlled a company called Ergon Site Construction that fraudulently obtained certification as a small business enterprise and a minority-owned business, the U.S. Attorney’s Office said.

Ergon bid on and won more than 100 residential demolition contracts with Cincinnati by leveraging the company’s fraudulent small business enterprise status, authorities said. These contracts were worth nearly $2 million.

The president of Ergon and the former CFOs and manager of Evans Landscaping also were criminally charged and convicted.

The Wolf Creek restoration project supports the future construction of a recreational path that will close a gap in the Wolf Creek corridor bikeway between downtown Dayton and Wesleyan MetroPark, said Weinel, the city engineer.

“The project will provide a more direct access to this portion of the Wolf Creek for a neighborhood that can’t access it now,” he said.

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