Members of the Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio Regional Council of Carpenters union holding a banner outside the under-construction Blu-tique Hotel in downtown Akron say they are raising a question of tax fraud.
An Akron-based union spokesman said the large banner shown this week at the busy street intersection is intended to ask whether some people working on the project may not be paying all of the taxes they should be to local government.
The carpenters union does not have any members working on the hotel project; local spokesman Kevin Ennis said the union is conducting a tax fraud campaign nationally that involves monitoring and visiting job sites and interviewing workers.
The banner raises a question and does not make a statement, Ennis said.
The city of Akron said it could not comment beyond saying that all of the trades contractors on the project have pulled the appropriate permits and are registered with the city's tax department as required.
Developer Tony Troppe says the union has not talked with him about its concerns and says the 71-room hotel project is scrutinized by both the state and federal governments. The $10 million redevelopment of the United Building is financed in part with historic preservation tax credits; Troppe is co-developer along with Riley Hotel Group in Medina.
The union banner held by two people at East Market and South Main streets names Troppe and asks whether he is concerned about tax fraud involving an unnamed contractor on the project.
“Of course I’m always concerned about tax fraud,” Troppe said. But he said he doesn’t know about any specific tax frauds.
“Show me what’s wrong,” Troppe said. “Either we’ll fix it or we’ll fix it. … Am I concerned about people being screwed over? Yes.”
But Troppe said someone has to tell him who is being hurt and how.
“I say, do what’s right and sleep right at night,” he said.
The carpenters union’s information banner is not a “union, non-union issue,” said Ennis, senior representative in the union’s Akron office.
The union’s national campaign looks at such things as whether construction employees are misclassified, are paid cash or are not paid overtime — all of which reduce municipal tax revenue, he said.
The union said it represents more than 32,000 tradespeople in 33 locals in Indiana, Ohio, Kentucky and parts of West Virginia and Tennessee.
Ennis said he was not sure how long union members will be holding banners outside the Blu-tique. In his council’s three-state district, the union has shown banners for weeks and in one instance it has been showing a banner for two years, he said.
Jim Mackinnon covers business and county government. He can be reached at 330-996-3544 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him @JimMackinnonABJ on Twitter or www.facebook.com/JimMackinnonABJ