TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Last summer, the Tampa Housing Authority (THA) abruptly fired the South Florida-based construction contractor that was building the $26 million dollar Tempo hi-rise.
That’s the latest "Crown Jewel" in the sprawling $420 million Encore Development the THA is building on the northeastern edge of downtown Tampa.
The THA alleged the seven-story ,200 apartment Tempo project had fallen prey to shoddy workmanship, poor management and breach of contract.
The project was already 70 percent complete but the THA wanted no part of the Plantation, Florida-based company known as the Siltek Group, especially after the company’s founder and husband of the current owner pleaded guilty in a multi-million dollar kickback scheme that targeted public housing in South Florida.
After Siltek stopped construction, THA workers spent months removing rain-soaked drywall and other interior elements damaged by water because Siltek had failed to seal the outer shell from the elements before beginning finishing work inside.
Now, a new company with curious ties to Siltek is finishing the job.
Tron Construction is owned by Ana Silveira-Sierra, the same woman who owned Siltek. Sierra’s husband Rene Sierra founded Siltek with her, but is not involved in the current work at Tempo. That’s because he’s under house arrest after pleading guilty in that South Florida fraud case.
Rene Sierra testified against his co-conspirators in a kickback scheme to inflate the cost of South Florida public housing for their own self-enrichment.
If you think all of that seems a bit dicey for the general contractor of a $26 million public housing project in Tampa that you paid for, you’re not alone. The Tampa Housing Authority’s attorney tried but failed to quash the new contracting deal back in October.
In a letter sent to the surety company October 3, THA attorney Felix Rodriguez wrote: "The Owner (THA) has no confidence in Siltek’s or TRON’s ability to complete the job. Again this is due, in part, to Siltek’s numerous breaches of the Construction Contract along with the numerous construction defects and deficiencies that the Owner has discovered after Siltek was terminated."
Read the full document
There’s a confidence builder.
Regardless of the THA’s misgivings, Rodriguez insists there was little choice when the surety company picked Sierra’s new company to take over the project from Sierra’s fired former company, Siltek.
The deal was made even stranger by Siltek’s $5.6 million lien filed against the Tempo project and its attempt to foreclose on the same. Rodriguez claimed in his October letter that the contractor was basically trying to "get paid twice for the same work."
8 On Your Side has been asking the THA for weeks about ties between Tempo’s former contractor and the current one contractor.
Numerous emails and public records requests sent to the THA since early December have been met with stony silence.
Who can blame them, this has to be highly embarrassing. A scan of THA board minutes from May to November makes absolutely no mention of the matter.
Not exactly a shining moment for the Tampa Housing Authority’s "Crown Jewel."