If you’re a representative of a government entity about to embark on a construction project, here’s a bit of advice: You’d do well to find someone besides Mayfield Construction to do the work for you.

If you’re a taxpayer in the Tahlequah School District, Mayfield has already been into your pocketbook. Thanks to an injust decision on the part of an arbitrator with questionable competence, Mayfield will get another $131,000 on top of the more than $205,000 he’s already skinned you for. That’s a third of a million bucks for doing little more than performing substandard, code-violating and incomplete work on a couple of restrooms for elementary-age kids.

Mayfield’s ineptitude surfaced about a year and a half ago, when employees at Greenwood and Sequoyah told Press reporters there was no water pressure in the restrooms. The problem involved the distance the water had to travel from source to terminus, and the pipes to carry the water were too small. The city building inspector wouldn’t sign off on the project, because it didn’t meet code.

An honest, reputable contractor who cared about his community and its children would have fixed the mess he made, even if he had to take a bit of a financial hit to do so. But incredibly, the subcontractor, Kinsey Plumbing, refused to do so, and Mayfield wouldn’t budge, either. School officials had to bring in someone else to redo the work, and understandably, they didn’t want to pay out the rest of Mayfield’s contract. Refusing to fork over the cash was the responsible course of action; the money, after all, belonged to the taxpayers.

Unable to break the stalemate with Mayfield, district officials contemplated their next move. One avenue would have been to seek justice through the local court system – a path, in hindsight, they wish they had taken. Instead, they elected to go through an arbitration process, and accept the decision of a supposedly impartial third party as binding.

For district patrons familiar with this case and the work under scrutiny, the outcome was shocking. The arbitrator, one Delbert C. Carman, handed the bill to the children of Tahlequah and their tax-paying parents, who by and large eek out an existence below the poverty line.

We don’t know much about Mr. Carman, except that he’s supposedly an Oklahoma City-area mechanical engineer with 30 years of experience under his belt. Indeed, a couple of hours searching the Internet didn’t turn up anyone fitting his name and description. Since the only person we found with that name was a septuagenarian antique tractor aficionado, we have no evidence the man’s real name is Delbert Carman. But if the outrage he perpetrated against the Tahlequah schools is typical of his arbitration work, no one could blame him for using a pseudonym.

The elusive Mr. Carman didn’t even bother offering an excuse for this apparent injustice, nor did he have to. But in the interest of fairness, a righteous man might want to be up-front about his motives. And it also seems fair to ask just what sort of “experience” Mr. Carman has accrued over the past 30 years. We think we have a pretty good idea, and it certainly warrants further investigation.

All we really know about Mr. Carman is that thanks to his maneuvering, the American Arbitration Association, and/or various representatives thereof, will exact their pound of flesh from the Tahlequah School District taxpayers. Several pounds, actually: $2,250 for “total administrative fees and expenses,” and $4,410.80 for “total neutral compensation and expenses.” We don’t pretend to understand the particulars, but under the circumstances, the word “neutral” strikes us as a bad joke.

Interestingly, those two figures add up to $6,660 – that’s three sixes and a placeholder. Plus 80 cents in change.

Another ironic, if insignificant, piece of trivia involves Carman’s case manager, one J.D. Allen, supposedly based in Texas. Though Mr. Carman remains incognito, we did find a J.D. Allen who runs an Internet blog, and says this about himself: “I’m currently working on planting a church in my hometown. The emphasis is on justice, compassion, and inclusion. To pay the bills I work for the American Arbitration Association in Dallas.” He says he’s a 27-year-old Pisces, born in the zodiac year of the horse, who is interested in the “intersection of religion and politics sports theology.”

If Mr. Allen is who and what he claims to be, we suggest he take a close look at Mr. Carman’s work. “Justice,” which Mr. Allen holds up as a beacon, had no part of it. Maybe he can do something about the situation, even if the school and its patrons can’t.

All anyone around here can do is live and learn – and hire contractors other than Mayfield and Kinsey, if they want the job done right. We strongly recommend it, and based on their comments about this case (for print and otherwise), we’re confident Tahlequah school officials would agree.

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