A settlement has been reached between Fisher Sand & Gravel and the Federal Government over a lawsuit concerning flood risks posed by a debilitated portion of the border wall built on private land along the Rio Grand River near Mission, Texas. Although Fisher has expressed satisfaction with the outcome, parts of the agreement are sealed, including any additional recompense beyond what has been reported to Engineering News Record by the two parties involved.
Fisher has an operational history that has seen many appearances before the judge. With the outcome of this most recent litigation, they have seemingly dodged another bullet, but it will cost them.
The lawsuit against the contractor was filed in 2019 by the U.S. Justice Department and alleged that the $42 million steel bollard fence separating the United States from Mexico was demonstrating erosion and instability. It was also charged that the wall vi0lated a treaty with Mexico under the International Boundary and Water Commission regarding flood risks t0 the water flow. Additional plaintiffs in the suit included Texas officials and a non-profit wildlife center adjacent to the property.
As part of the unsealed portion of the settlement agreement, it has been announced that the federal government will be allowed quarterly inspections of the privately funded 3.5 mile portion of the US-Mexico border wall. Additionally, inspections will occur after rain or any flooding. The property must be maintained by Fisher and affiliates for the next 15 years and the contractor must make repairs under parameters outlined in the agreement. These repairs must be completed within 6o days of discovery.
Fisher must also maintain a $3 million bond to cover fence repairs or to be used if there is a failure in upkeep.
Federal money and We Build the Wall
During the Trump Administration, Fisher Sand & Gravel received $2 billion in border wall contracts from the Federal Government. The lawsuit concerns an additional private contract that was given the contractor from the scandal ridden "We Build the Wall" organization.
As BDN reported previously, FSG was awarded the federal contract through potentially unscrupulous channels that smacked of favoritism vs. competitive bidding. The company was heavily championed for the job by Trump friend, Senator Kevin Cramer of North Dakota. Previously, in what has the appearance of a quid pro quo, Tommy Fisher and his wife each gave the maximum amount allowed to Senator Cramer's 2018 campaign fund. Ultimately, the President ended up personally pushing for Fisher Sand & Gravel to be awarded the federal contract.
This was on the heels of the contractor working with Trump advisor, Steve Bannon's privately funded We Build the Wall group on the portion of the wall subject to the lawsuit. Bannon and partner Brian Kolfage would be indicted on federal fraud charges for bilking their investors of hundreds of thousands of dollars. The DOJ lawsuit and settlement caps a sordid chapter in the doomed border wall debacle of the last administration.
Fisher's shady past
Fisher Sand & Gravel and its CEO have seen the inside of a court room many times.
In 2009, then owner Michael Fisher, was sentenced to 3 years in prison for tax fraud after previous CEO, David Fisher, was sent to prison for child pornography in 2005. The company is now run by Tommy Fisher, the third son of founder Gene Fisher.
Under Tommy's leadership, Fisher Sand & Gravel has had multiple violations since 2009. According to violation tracker, these offenses include $1.16 million in tax violations, over $740,000 in environmental violations, $150,000 in workplace discrimination violations, and almost $50,000 in OSHA violations.
The lawsuit and costly settlement are the most recent examples of the company running afoul of the law and paying to get out of it.
A sealed outcome
Portions of the settlement have been sealed and physical copies have been ordered destroyed by the DOJ. Both the Department of Justice and Fisher Sand & Gravel declined comment for ENR's piece on the settlement.
Tommy Fisher would only go on record to say that he was "happy" the lawsuit is finally behind him. But even though a settlement was reached, the company is clearly not off the hook even though they have been cleared of negligence on paper.
Given the controversial history of the contractor and its many court room appearances throughout the years, its deep involvement with the failed wall, and FS&G's proximity to the criminal case, the outcome of this lawsuit may seem like a dodged bullet. However, if Fisher Sand & Gravel keep doing damage to the pocketbook, their bottom-line way of doing business will necessitate re-evaluation.
Read story on Engineering News- Record