Businessmen guilty of cheating workers

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Two owners of an electrical company pleaded guilty to not paying their employees the prevailing wage at a Normandale College construction project, Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman announced Tuesday.

Thomas Robert Clifton, 51, of Lake Elmo and Earl Keith Standafer, 57, of Burnsville each pleaded guilty Friday to a single count of theft by swindle over $35,000 before Hennepin County District Court Judge Pamela Alexander.

Judge Alexander immediately sentenced Clifton to five years of probation and 270 days in the county workhouse. She sentenced Standafer to three years on probation and 210 days in the workhouse. Both sentences and the guilty plea were worked out between the defense lawyers and prosecutors and approved by the judge.

“This is a good outcome,” Hennepin County Attorney Mike Freeman said. “These two businessmen have a felony on their record and have to do time behind bars. It sends the message to them and to other business owners: don’t cheat your workers or you will pay the price.”

Clifton and Standafer were owners of C & S Electric Co. In 2010, the general contractor, Donlar Construction Co., hired C & S to do the electrical work at the renovation of the Normandale College student center in Bloomington. The electric company had submitted the low bid and promised to pay the prevailing wage.

From about August 2010 to the following August, C & S had 16 electricians on the site. The prevailing wage for them would have been wages at $34.30 an hour plus $24.20 per hour in fringe benefits. The company failed to pay into their employees’ retirement accounts, a legitimate fringe benefit C & S falsely claimed had been paid. During the construction, C & S was required to submit documents to Donlar indicating it was paying the prevailing wage, and those documents were signed by Clifton or Standafer.

In the winter of 2011-12, a complaint was filed with the Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry. Its investigators found that the company had not paid the prevailing wage and that, at one point, Clifton told a number of employees that they would not be paid the prevailing wage due to the poor economy.

Freeman praised Donlar Construction Co. for paying the electricians’ back wages once they learned C & S had underpaid by about $257,250. Donlar later successfully sued C & S for the money.