August 24, 2011 —
As a business advocate for the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board (WCB), Neil Gilberg is sympathetic to the challenges of operating a small business. He has worked hard to assist businesses that have had penalties with the WCB, that have since come into compliance, to receive lower fines. Still, he wants all businesses to comply with state law.
After The River Reporter ran a story about building permits in Sullivan County, Gilberg visited the newspaper office to clarify the board’s position.
He said for any permit that is issued by a municipality, there must be proof of workers’ compensation insurance and disability insurance, or proof that it’s not required. A form called a CE200, which must be signed by the contractor, documents an exemption for a single person who is doing the work entirely alone, with no subcontractors, volunteers or family members.
Gilberg said, “Where I think there is some controversy, [is] when a CEO issues a permit based on a CE200 form, and that individual is going to be working alone, and then the CEO goes out on the road and sees the individual, for example, working on a roof with seven individuals that appear to be working for him. What does that code enforcement officer do?
“Well, I think they should pull that permit because they know that it’s fraudulent. If they pull the permit, it’s basically a stop work order. They should definitely call the Workers’ Compensation Compliance Division and we will come down and investigate.
“If we don’t have anyone available, the pilot program that is in place in Sullivan County would allow us to contact the New York State Police or Sullivan County Sheriff’s Office, which would send somebody who could collect what we need to prepare a case for prosecution.”
Gilberg said the CEOs and building inspectors in Sullivan County are not making those calls to the board. He emphasized that the board does not expect them to go out and investigate whether a contractor is violating the terms of the permit. But, he said, “If the CEOs come upon a project in the normal course of their business, and they learn that the permit has been fraudulently obtained, they should take action on that, the least of which would be to contact us, but they would certainly be well within their rights to pull that permit because it’s fraudulent.”
Gilberg said not enforcing the law could be detrimental to the municipality. He said if something were to happen on a job and someone is injured, and the CEO was aware that there was a fraudulent permit, the injured person could go after the municipality “for knowingly issuing a fraudulent permit.” The same would apply if a CEO failed to check to see if the contractor had coverage.
Gilberg said the WCB is going to be auditing the building permits throughout the county. “Not to check the CEOs, but instead our investigators will look for patterns of contractors who use CE200s often to see if in fact they truly worked alone or used the exemption fraudulently.”
He said the NYS comptrollers office would be auditing the permits as well.