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Corrupt Contractor KBR Under Fire in Palm Beach County; Anyone Surprised?

A front-page story in today's Palm Beach Post blasts the Houston-based engineering and construction firm Kellogg, Brown & Root (KBR) for not hiring enough local workers on its $200 million solid waste project in western Palm Beach County.

One small detail is missing: KBR's sordid track record of hurting workers in far more dangerous ways.

Last year, shortly after a KBR division called BE&K won the waste contract, the Juice warned of dark times to come. KBR, a former subsidiary of Halliburton, is one of the worst government

contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. It's been accused of endangering soldiers, taking bribes, bilking the U.S. Department of Defense, and turning a blind eye to the sexual harassment of its employees. Witness some of the company's alleged sins:

-- In 2006, a Defense Department auditor found KBR may have overpriced fuel imported to Iraq by $279 million.

-- In 2008, a U.S. soldier in Iraq was electrocuted while showering in a building maintained by KBR. An Army investigation ruled his death a "negligent homicide" caused by KBR. According to the Associated Press, KBR had 231 electric shock incidents in the facilities it ran in Iraq.

-- In 2009, the company pleaded guilty to giving millions in dollars in bribes to Nigerian officials in order to win engineering and construction contracts. KBR agreed to pay a $402 million criminal fine.

-- Several former female employees have alleged they were raped or sexually harassed while working for KBR in Iraq, then faced retaliation from the company when they complained. Last year, one sexual assault victim won a $2.9 million award from her arbitration claim against the company.

Back here in Palm Beach County, unemployed welders and carpenters say KBR is shutting them out of a lucrative gig overhauling a Solid Waste Authority plant. Meanwhile, the company is angling for yet another $700 million waste contract in the county. Sounds promising, doesn't it?

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Lisa Rab
Contact: Lisa Rab

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