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A Leak in the Ceiling…. August 4, 2006

Posted by jaldenh in Hmmm.....
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Ex-Big Dig safety official admits he sent memo

Says he stands by authenticity of document

A former safety official for a Big Dig contractor who has said he wrote a memo in 1999 warning that the Interstate 90 connector ceiling was unsafe acknowledged last night that he mailed the document to the Globe with another man’s name and address on the envelope as the sender.

John J. Keaveney, former safety official for Modern Continental Construction Co., had previously denied sending the document to the newspaper.

But Keaveney said last night that he sent it to the Globe with a current Modern Continental employee’s name and office address on the envelope because he feared the consequences if it were known that he provided the newspaper with the memo.

“I was worried about the repercussions and that it might affect my family and my livelihood,” Keaveney said.

The editor of The Boston Globe, Martin Baron, said in a statement yesterday that the admission raised serious questions about Keaveney’s credibility.

“It is disturbing that we were not told the truth about an important element of this story,” Baron said in a statement. “Our first obligation is to bring that information directly and prominently to our readers.”

Modern Continental said in a statement Wednesday that the Keaveney memo appears to be a fabrication, and the company has submitted records to state investigators that it says raises questions about Keaveney’s credibility and his account of events. Among the information turned over to investigators was a handwriting analysis that indicates that Keaveney “probably” addressed the envelope.

In the interview last night, Keaveney insisted his memo is genuine and said efforts by Modern Continental to raise questions about it amount to a campaign to discredit him.

“I unequivocally stand by this memo,” Keaveney said. “The memo is authentic.”

The two-page document Keaveney asserts he wrote on May 17, 1999 raised concerns about whether the connector’s epoxy-bolt system could support the heavy concrete ceiling panels. In it, Keaveney says he cannot understand “how this structure can withhold the test of time.”

The memo also said: “Should any innocent State Worker or member of the Public be seriously injured or even worse killed as a result, I feel that this would be something that would reflect Mentally and Emotionally upon me, and all who are trying to construct a quality Project.”

Last night, Keaveney said he went to his attic shortly after Milena Del Valle was crushed by the ceiling collapse July 10 and found the memo in a pile of project documents from that period. Keaveney said he initially did nothing with the memo. But he said that after newspaper stories suggested that construction workers had wondered about the ceiling’s safety during its installation, he decided to send the document to the Globe, in hope the information would get out.

“I was hoping it would come out in a way that would back up the assertion that people were talking about it,” Keaveney said.

A resident of Norwell who now works as safety officer for Boston-based Shawmut Design and Construction, Keaveney said he mailed it from a Quincy mailbox with the false return address.

Keaveney has said he turned over the memo in 1999 to Robert Coutts, senior project manager for Modern Continental. But Modern Continental said in its statement that Coutts has no recollection of ever receiving the memo or discussing it with Keaveney.

The documents that Modern gave to investigators primarily focus on the timetable for installation of the ceiling in the connector tunnel. While Keaveney’s memo was dated May 17, 1999, the documents indicate that the work had not begun on the ceiling installation at that time, so Keaveney could not have observed what he states in the memo, according to the company.

For example, in the memo, Keaveney expresses concern about water dripping from drilled holes in the ceiling.

However, according to the company, no holes were drilled into the ceiling until mid-June. In addition, the building materials for the project were not delivered until July, according to company records.

Keaveney, according to a person who has spoken with him, has said that he wrote the memo before work began on the tunnel, based on interviews with project workers and review of the project schedule. Keaveney has said that his job required him to “pre-plan” or identify safety concerns before construction began.

Another document Modern Continental has submitted to investigators is a reprimand that Keaveney was given in 1998 for allegedly falsifying the training records of a safety representative at Modern Continental.

Last night, Keaveney said that in the incident, Modern Continental management tried to blame him after a client discovered some irregularities in the training certificates of workers.

“I do recall [management] trying to verbally reprimand me, but however I told them to `knock it off’ and `go play politics elsewhere and not at my expense,’ ” Keaveney said.

Jonathan Saltzman can be reached at jsaltzman@globe.com.  

© Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
 

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