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I am not insubordinate. I am the moronish type that will give the shirt off of his back to help anybody—a poor Negro, a Mexican, Earl Lund, or Tom Jay.
Mr. WALLHAUSER. I am not disputing this. Please don't misunderstand my line of questioning. I am merely trying to find out whether some partial-usually in a situation of this kind I have found there are two sides to every story, and I just wondered whether you could
Mr. WARREN. Yes, sir.
Mr. WALLHAUSER (continuing). Anything in your own personality or in your own disposition or your own method of handling your contacts with them
Mr. WARREN. Sir, I have had many indignities pressed upon me in the last 8 months, and when a personal affront or indignity is pressed upon me in the presence of others, I try to give back that same measure, and then a gram or two more.
Mr. WALLHAUSER. Of indignity?
Mr. WARREN. Yes, sir. I found early, many years ago in the construction job, the carpenters were talking one day, and they were saying this carpenter foreman berated them and everything else and he had to quit even though it was during the depression years and his children and family probably would suffer, but he just thought he would have to quit.
There was one Irishman there with a sense of humor. He said I don't know why you would want to quit. He said how would you handle it. He said if he called me--and I could say a good wordMr. BROOKS. There are many ladies present.
Mr. WARREN. If he called me a name, I would put one adjective on that and call him the same thing. That makes us equal. That lets me maintain my self-respect and helps me make a living. And I followed that principle as fairly and objectively as I could.
Mr. WALLHAUSER. In other words, your disposition is not to turn the other cheek but to fight back?
Mr. WARREN. My position is that I will eat dirt in little chunks, but I will not eat it in big chunks.
Mr. WALLHAUSER. Thank you.
The next witness we were to have is Mr. Hunt Benoist, Jr., to relate his knowledge of the Mart Building contract. The information relating to a bribe attempt on a Government subcontractor is considered quite serious. We felt obligated to have sworn testimony on this subject.
Mr. Benoist called from St. Louis and talked with our investigator. He said that he was sick. He said that he was ill and there was other illness in his family. He asked to be excused from appearing at this time, but felt he should point out the true fact in the matter. He assured us he would be happy to appear at any other time. We naturally were reluctant to put this program off because it is a disruptive thing to have to leave and be back and forth.
Yesterday morning we directed an investigator in Kansas City to proceed to St. Louis
to secure a sworn statement from Mr. Benoist. I would like now to read that statement into the record. I will defer to Mr. Moore.
Mr. MOORE. The following is a sworn statement of Mr. Hunt Benoist, Jr., vice president of the Hercules Construction Co., 9810 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Mo., dated March 24, 1960: To Whom It May Concern:
My name is Hunt Benoist, Jr. I am the vice president of the Hercules Construction Co., 9810 Page Avenue, St. Louis, Mo. The following statement is made with reference to the facts surrounding a bid submitted by the Hercules Construction Co. for remodeling work on the Mart Building in St. Louis for the U.S. Government and regarding the bids of partition subcontractors on the same job. This was on the 6th of April 1959 that the bid was submitted.
As general contractors, the Hercules Construction Co. was interested in submitting a bid on the remodeling of the second floor of the Mart Building in St. Louis. Naturally, we wanted to obtain the best bid we could from the subcontractors who handled partition work since there was a considerable quantity of partitioning on the project.
We notified several partition subcontractors, including Henges Co., that we were interested in securing bids for the partition work ; Hamilton Co., Val Baker Co., among others. This was done approximately 2 weeks prior to the bid opening on April 6, 1959.
Officials of the Henges Co., Inc., which does partition work, contacted our company several times regarding a bid on the partition work. These contacts were in the nature of telephone calls. The Henges Co. officials repeatedly stated that only their partitions would be acceptable to GSA. It was positively stated by them several times that Mr. Ralph Warren, of GSA, would not accept any partitions other than those of the Henges Co.
We obtained bids from the Hamilton Co. on O'Brien partitions in the amount of $50,000. Prior to this the Henges Co. submitted a package bid for the floors, ceiling, and partitions in the amount of approximately $80,000. By using Hamilton Co.'s price of $50,000 for the partitions plus the low ceiling tile bid of $12,000 and the low floor tile bid of $4,500, which came to a total of $66,500. I was able to make a comparison of the two bids for the partitions. This comparison indicates that the Henges Co. wanted about $63,500 for the partitions alone. Although the Henges Co. partitions were nearly $15,000 more than the O'Brien partitions that Hamilton Co. was bidding on, I considered the O'Brien partitions of equal quality.
I called the Hamilton Co. to see if there was any truth to the statements made by the Henges Co. officials regarding the acceptability of various partitions, as I didn't want to use the O'Brien partitions if they were not acceptable to GSA. I was contacted later by the Hamilton Co. and was informed that they in turn had contacted Mr. Glen O'Brien, of the O'Brien Partition Co., concerning these statements. They told me that Mr. O'Brien had called Mr. Warren of GSA, who assured him that O'Brien partitions were considered equal and that it was untrue that only Henges Co. partitions would be acceptable to GSA.
Due to the Henges Co. continued insistence that only their partitions would be acceptable to GSA, I called Mr. Ralph Warren, of GSA, in Kansas City on Monday morning, the day the bids were due, to determine if the O'Brien partition would be acceptable and he informed me that he was familiar with the O'Brien partition, considered it equal, and would accept it.
The Henges Co. was still insisting, even at 9 a.m. on the morning of the bid deadline which was at 10 a.m.—that only the Henges partitions met the basic requirements and would be acceptable to GSA.
About 15 or 20 minutes after the deadline, Henges Co. had gotten word that Hamilton Co. had given us a bid and they were calling to verify this. I told them that Hamilton Co. had given us a bid which was considerably lower than their bid and that it was too late to accept another proposal from them. They offered to drop their bid to meet Hamilton Co.'s if we would use it in the bid which we would submit to GSA. I refused to do this. This deadline has reference to the cutoff time under the bidding practice code in St. Louis which all responsible contractors follow. This code provides for a cutoff time at which all subcontract bids must be received by the general contractors. This cutoff time is always set in advance and is usually 4 hours prior to the time the general contractor must submit his overall bid for work. Most St. Louis general contractors follow this procedure and do not accept bids from subcontractors after the deadline.
Later, after we were the low bidder on this project and after the notification that our bid had been accepted, Mr. J. Henges, Mr. Gordon Henges, and Mr. Ron Henges visited our office on several occasions, either together or one at a time, in an attempt to talk our company into awarding their company the subcontract for the partition work. They offered to take the subcontract for a sum under the low bid of the Hamilton Co.; the offer was refused. Finally, Mr. J. Henges, Jr., came to our office and at a luncheon explained that they had to have the partition subcontract because the GSA was anxious to standardize on Henges partition throughout this region and that they, Henges, also had to have it to save face with the other general contractors who had been convinced by Henges Co. that only Henges partitions would be acceptable. Present at this luncheon meeting were Mr. John E. Flynn, president of Hercules Construction Co., Mr. J. Henges, Jr., and myself. When we refused to go along with the Henges partitions we were told that other remuneration was available to us personally if they could get the partition work; we refused.
I have carefully examined the above statement and I do hereby swear that, to the best of my knowledge, the information contained therein is the truth.
Signed “Hunt Benoist, Jr.," and it is notarized.
Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God?
Mr. GROPPEL. I do.
TESTIMONY OF E. T. GROPPEL, VICE PRESIDENT AND SALES
MANAGER, THE HAMILTON CO., INC., ST. LOUIS, MO. Mr. BROOKS. State for the record your full name, business, and position.
Mr. GROPPEL. Edward T. Groppel, vice president and sales manager,
Mr. BROOKS. How long has the Hamilton Co. been in business?
Mr. BROOKS. How long have you had the dealership for O'Brien partitions in the St. Louis area?
Mr. GROPPEL. About 3 years.
Mr. BROOKS. Do you feel that your company enjoys a good reputation in the St. Louis business community?
Mr. GROPPEL. Yes, sir; we do.
Mr. Brooks. We hope your presence here will not embarrass you, and the hearing is not intended to embarrass you or anybody else. But as responsible businessmen we feel that you can be of assistance to us and to your Government by telling us publicly all that you know of the tactics used by the Henges Co. in their efforts to secure the Government subcontract for the partition work on the Mart Building project in St. Louis.
I wonder if you have a general statement that you would like to make?
Mr. GROPPEL. In essence, what was read from Mr. Benoist, because we got most of our information from general contractors whom we had bid
with. We were very much worried-as a matter of fact, I turned this question for a proposal over to one salesman in our organization without even looking at it. He returned it to my desk and said, “I can't bid this. This is set up for Henges Co."
Knowing that it was a Government job, I turned it over to a little more experienced salesman who has been with us some 14 or 15 years and has done a lot of Government work. He is the one that then got
in touch with Glen O'Brien here to be certain, because we couldn't afford to submit a figure unless we were relatively certain that the general contractor could use it, because with the difference of price there, it would hurt a general contractor if we gave them a figure by telephone which is customary, and we have to live up to that telephone quotation, even though we have nothing written on it.
Mr. BROOKS. When you first took on O'Brien partitions, was there any pressure applied by the Henges Co.?
Mr. GROPPEL. No. Maybe I don't understand your question. What do you mean?
Mr. BROOKS. When you first agreed to distribute and work with O'Brien partitions, and try to sell them, and in accepting their dealership, did you have some static from the Henges people as to the O'Brien Co.?
Mr. GROPPEL. We did. I don't know what you are getting at, but some of our first jobs were actually Government jobs for McDonnell Aircraft that had to be approved by the Navy. We bid the O'Brien partitions and they were acceptable. We did quite a few thousand dollars worth of work. Actually at that time Gordon Henges, Sr., telephoned me and said since he was manufacturing them and we were buying them from O'Brien, he could, if he wanted to, put us out of the business. But we forget a conversation such as that. Quite often competitors tell you that.
Mr. BROOKS, And you have been in business nevertheless since 1921 ?
Mr. GROPPEL. Of general concern, though, what actually bothered us the most was in the 16 years that I have been with the company we have never gotten a contract job, Government, private, or otherwise, that got the inspection that this Mart Building job got. We first learned about it through our mechanics, because since we hire union men and so does Henges, quite often the same mechanics work for both companies. You would walk on the job and the mechanics would say, "Well, your supervisors were in here this morning. Two or three people from Henges Co.” That is actually what irritated us considerably. I personally met them on the job one morning. It is the only time that I saw them on the job.
Mr. BROOKS. To go back to getting the contract, would you sort of bring us up to date on getting the award, just as completely as possible, to the events occurring that led up to the award of the contract, as to whether or not there was some question about whether you could use. O'Brien partitions, or whether you had to use Henges partitions? Was there any discussion on that!
Mr. GROPPEL. We couldn't have used Henges partitions because we couldn't have purchased them. We had to use either O'Brien or none.
Mr. BROOKS. Was there any indication that Henges partitions were going to be required?
Mr. GROPPEL. The only out that we had, and the reason we checked it and the reason the general contractors did, is that it was, as the specifications were written out, gages of metals and such as that; if you were to put it in specifically in accordance with those specifications and not consider performance but consider gages of metal and such,
there wouldn't have been any other partition that would have met it except the Movawall, the trade name for Henges partitions.
Mr. BROOKS. Is there any indication that the GSA inspection would require removal of O'Brien partitions if they were put in?
Mr. GROPPEL. I had one of the men in the office telephone
Mr. GROPPEL. In my office_telephone Gordon Henges one Saturday morning, frankly to tell him to stay off the job.
Mr. BROOKS. Why?
Mr. GROPPEL. They were disrupting by coming on every morning and staying anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour and a half and picking up pieces of metal and taking it out. Even our mechanics started joking with us and asking who was installing the job, were we installing it or was Henges installing it.
Mr. BROOKS. You pay those men by the hour, the mechanics? Mr. GROPPEL. We pay those men by the hour. They were talking with our men
Mr. BROOKS. This cost you how much an hour for their chatting with your employees?
Mr. GROPPEL. Roughly $4 an hour.
Mr. BROOKS. $4 an hour for chatting and visiting with your men on the job?
Mr. GROPPEL. Yes, sir.
Mr. GROPPEL. Completely unnecessary. We pointed out that the Government was paying inspectors, and his excuse was, "Well, as a taxpayer I will appoint myself to do it.”
Mr. BROOKB. Have you checked any of his jobs lately?
Mr. BROOKS. Would you tell us what happened after the award to the Hercules Construction Co., and the subsequent subcontract award to you, leading up to the Henges Co. letter of protest?
Mr. GROPPEL. I don't know if this might have been true, but we had the feeling, since there was a time limit on this
contract, there was delay in getting certain materials approved. We thought a little bit too much; and we didn't want to get caught with a penalty at the end. do feel that the tenor of things that Mr. Warren mentioned, with Henges there all the time, I think a lot of the people that might make approval of materials at the GSA were just a little bit afraid to talk or do anything.
By a phone conversation this particular morning, Gordon Henges told us we hadn't heard the last of this thing. He indicated that he knew an awful lot of people in the GSA. We weren't too doggone sure how many people he knew.
Mr. BROOKS. Not since that "Dear Tom" letter, anyhow.
Actually, in installing a movable partition, after you have it up, if some inspector would go and find a little 50-cent item that he disapproved in the bottom of that thing, and you had to take the whole partition down to do it, it could cost you several hundred dollars to replace a 50-cent item.
That is the strain that you go through when you are not sure about what kind of inspection you are going to have on the job, because you