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McKeesport company settles foreign steel lawsuit

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Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2013, 4:26 a.m.
 

State Attorney General Kathleen G. Kane said McKeesport-based Ryco Inc. agreed to settle a Commonwealth Court lawsuit over the use of foreign-made steel in $1.5 million worth of public works projects, some in Norwin School District.

Norwin is deciding if it will seek damages because foreign steel was used in fittings installed in fire sprinkler systems at its renovated middle school.

Kane said Ryco president Thomas Sherry Jr. and vice president Robert Bosco agreed to pay $429,000 and comply with a seven-year injunction to resolve the suit filed by Kane's predecessor, Linda Kelly, on Aug. 1, 2012.

“Ryco used hundreds of fittings and hangers made in China and Poland,” Kelly said. “These noncertified and less-expensive materials generated excess profits for Ryco and allowed the company to unfairly compete against other contractors.”

The settlement sets aside $359,000 “for the benefit of certain public agencies who have allegedly been harmed by the acts and practices of the defendants, and/or file complaints with the commonwealth or with the defendants within 90 days of” when a final order is issued.

“We did file some action with the Attorney General's office,” Norwin school board president Robert Perkins said on Monday. “The solicitor (Alfred Maiello) was handling it.”

The lawsuit alleged that Ryco and its affiliates violated the Steel Products Procurement Act, which requires using domestic steel on public projects unless it is determined that the steel needed is not produced in the United States in sufficient quantities to meet contract requirements.

“This law was established to promote and stimulate an industry that has helped build Pennsylvania and sustain many of its families,” said Kane, who succeeded Kelly in January. “This settlement sends a strong message that we take our promise to Pennsylvania's workers very seriously.”

According to the 33-page civil complaint, Ryco installed foreign steel in jobs at Indiana University of Pennsylvania and in Blairsville-Saltsburg and Norwin school districts.

The state alleged that Ryco broke the ban on using foreign steel and misled clients into paying them by falsely certifying compliance with the Steel Products Procurement Act, in violation of the state Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law and Pennsylvania Corrupt Practices Act.

Ryco's website displays pictures of Knights Stadium and the middle school on the main Norwin campus. It was a subcontractor on both projects.

The stadium was renovated in the second of four phases of a decade-long plan to renovate or replace district facilities. It was expanded and a new field house was built alongside it.

The middle school building, which dates to 1959 when it opened as a junior high school, was overhauled in the third phase and rededicated in August 2005.

“Ryco won the bid for fire suppression at the middle school,” Perkins said.

“Nothing contained in this consent petition shall constitute an admission of liability or concession by any defendant,” according to a court document released by Kane's office. The document requires Ryco to submit annual reports about its contracts with public agencies.

Ryco officials did not respond to requests for comment by presstime. On its website, Ryco said it has been in business for more than 30 years employing more than 130 of “the highest trained professionals and technical support people.”

Ryco Inc. was sued along with Ryco Fire Protection Services LLC, Ryco Fire Protection Services LP; Ryco Plumbing LLC; Ryco Plumbing LP; Ryco Plumbing II LLC and Ryco Plumbing II LP.

Bosco and Sherry signed the consent decree, with Bosco signing on his own and on behalf of the companies named in the lawsuit.

Others named in the lawsuit were secretary and treasurer Susan E. Sherry and other unidentified officers, owners and directors of the businesses.

Kane said the litigation and settlement were handled by senior deputy attorney general Joseph Betsko and deputy attorney general Norman Marden.

Rochelle Koerbel of the law firm of Blumling & Gusky LLP represented Ryco.

Patrick Cloonan is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-664-9161 ext. 1967, or pcloonan@tribweb.com.

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