A former Ansaldo Honolulu JV safety inspector hired to oversee Honolulu’s $6 billion rail project filed a whistleblower lawsuit last week alleging the Italian-based company was putting its employees in danger.

John McCaughey filed the lawsuit after working for Ansaldo from May to July. He alleges in court records that the company failed to hire enough safety workers to watch over Ansaldo personnel and subcontractors who at the time were working on a maintenance and storage facility in Pearl City.

McCaughey also said he was asked by Ansaldo — which has a $1.4 billion contract with the Honolulu Authority for Rapid Transportation to design, build and operate the city’s driverless train cars — to work on other projects not related to the city’s rail system.

Honolulu's rail project is estimated to cost $6 billion, and Ansaldo Honolulu JV has the largest single contract at $1.4 billion.
Honolulu’s rail project is estimated to cost $6 billion, and Ansaldo Honolulu JV has the largest single contract at $1.4 billion. Cory Lum/CIvil Beat

“At this point I feel like I am being pressured out of my position as I can no longer tolerate being even remotely complicit in these unethical activities,” McCaughey wrote in an email to Ansaldo officials. “Additionally, as a certified safety professional, I have a code of ethics to honor.”

McCaughey’s attorney, Joseph Rosenbaum, would not elaborate on what problems his client encountered on the job site. Rosenbaum added that McCaughey refused to do the extra work Ansaldo officials had pressured him to do outside of the contract with HART.

“His job was supposed to be exclusive to the HART contract,” Rosenbaum said. “He needed to make sure he was there and that his duties were exclusive to the contract for safety purposes.”

McCaughey told Ansaldo officials that if he was distracted from his primary oversight duties it “could result in injuries and fatalities to AHJV personnel as well as to our subcontractor personnel, exposing us and the project to potential litigation.”

Ansaldo issued a statement Wednesday to Hawaii News Now denying the allegations outlined in McCaughey’s lawsuit:

The allegations that John McCaughey makes in his complaint and through the media are meritless. Ansaldo Honolulu JV will vigorously defend the complaint in Federal Court.

The company employed Mr. McCaughey as a Senior Health, Safety and Environmental (HSE) advisor for a total of  11 weeks. All work assigned to him was related to the Honolulu Rail Project.

Mr. McCaughey admits that he offered to continue to perform some of the required Health, Safety and Environmental functions of his position only if the company would change his status from an employee to an independent contractor. Ansaldo Honolulu declined his offer, and Mr. McCaughey tendered his resignation…

Ansaldo Honolulu’s safety record is nearly spotless. No fatalities, no major injuries, and no time lost for accidents since day 1 of the project. We had only one minor injury in almost four years.

Read McCaughey’s lawsuit here:

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