Trump D.C. Hotel Contractors Say They're Owed Millions | KUOW News and Information

Trump D.C. Hotel Contractors Say They're Owed Millions

Jan 11, 2017
Originally published on January 11, 2017 11:03 am

In late October, just weeks ahead of the election, President-elect Donald Trump made a quick detour to Washington for the official opening of his new five-star hotel, just a few blocks from the White House.

During a ribbon-cutting ceremony, Trump told the crowd that the two-year, roughly $200 million renovation project at the historic Old Post Office Building was done ahead of schedule and under budget, thanks to what he called an incredible team of people — "including hundreds of construction workers, electricians, maintenance workers and so many others who helped make this project a reality. They're really the important ones."

Now some of those companies would like final payment for their work. Documents obtained by NPR show three Washington-area companies have filed liens against Trump International Hotel totaling more than $5 million.

One company, Joseph J. Magnolia Inc., filed a $2.98 million mechanic's lien in December. According to the filing, the firm worked on the hotel from September 2014 to December 2016 and "completed all plumbing, mechanical and HVAC work, along with site sewer, water, storm and water services."

AES Electrical Inc., based in Laurel, Md., says it's owed $2.075 million for its work on the hotel for the same period of time as Magnolia.

Sterling, Va.,-based A&D Construction filed a lien in November saying it was owed $79,700. The firm's lawyer, Richard Sissman, says A&D is a small, Hispanic-owned company that was subcontracting on the Trump hotel project.

"The nature of the work was ... trim and casework and architectural millwork, wall base, crown molding; this is all fine carpentry," he says.

Sissman says A&D's lien is relatively small compared to the other two, but it's a lot of money to his client.

"On these big jobs these should be paid. It's ridiculous that a small-time operator has to beg for its money," he says. "It's put him in a very bad situation right now."

Trump has faced many liens — and lawsuits — for alleged nonpayment for work in the past.

Steven Schooner, a contracts specialist with the George Washington University law school, says resolving the liens in this case could ultimately involve the federal government because it holds the lease on the building where the Trump hotel is located.

"The way the lease is structured, it said they may step in and discharge the lien but they're not actually required to," he says.

Still, Schooner says as a rule, the government wants its tenants — like Trump International Hotel — to solve its own problems.

Requests for comment from Trump's communication team about the liens were not returned.

Copyright 2017 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

After construction wrapped up on his new hotel in Washington, D.C., President-elect Donald Trump declared it the height of luxury. The Trump Organization spent $200 million to renovate the historic post office building, redoing all the woodwork, upgrading plumbing and electric systems. But several companies say they haven't been fully paid for that work and have filed liens against the Trump Hotel. NPR's Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM, BYLINE: In late October, just weeks ahead of the election, President-elect Trump made a quick detour to Washington for the official opening of his new five-star hotel just a few blocks from the White House. It included a ribbon-cutting ceremony.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

DONALD TRUMP: One, two, three.

(APPLAUSE)

NORTHAM: Trump told the crowd that the two-year renovation project was done ahead of schedule and under budget thanks to what he called an incredible team of people.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

TRUMP: Including hundreds of construction workers, electricians, maintenance workers and so many others who helped make this project a reality. They're really the important ones.

NORTHAM: And now some of those companies would like final payment for their work. Documents obtained by NPR show three Washington-area companies have filed liens against Trump International Hotel totaling $5 million. Richard Sissman is the lawyer for a subcontracting construction firm that says it's still owed about $80,000 for woodwork done on the hotel.

RICHARD SISSMAN: Trim and case work and architectural millwork, wall base crown molding - this is all fine carpentry. On these big jobs these should be paid. It's ridiculous that a small-time operator has to beg for its money.

NORTHAM: Trump has faced many liens and lawsuits for alleged non-payment for work in the past. Steven Schooner with the George Washington University Law School says resolving the liens in this case could ultimately involve the federal government because it holds the lease on the building where the Trump Hotel is located.

STEVEN SCHOONER: The way the lease is structured, it says that they may step in and discharge the lien, but they're not actually required to.

NORTHAM: Still, Schooner says, as a rule the government wants its tenants - like Trump Hotel - to solve their own problems. Requests for comment from Trump's communication team about the liens were not returned. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

(SOUNDBITE OF NUJABES AND UYAMA HIROTO'S "WINDSPEAKS") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.