KANSAS CITY, Kan. — The president of Mark One Electric characterized a 41 Action News investigation about a cluster of COVID-19 cases at the Donnelly College construction site in Kansas City, Kansas, as "false and misleading.”
The 41 Action News Investigators reported Monday that Mark One employees claim they were told if they decided to self-quarantine, they wouldn't receive unemployment insurance money.
Several workers said their foreman made that statement on behalf of Mark One President Rosana Privitera Biondo on April 10, which is the the same day as the first confirmed coronavirus case at the construction site.
According to Jerry Katlin of Excel Constructors, the general contractor for the Donnelly College project, there have been 10 positive COVID-19 cases among site workers, including four Mark One employees.
The 41 Action News Investigators made multiple attempts to contact Biondo before Monday's story aired, but she never responded.
Only after the story aired did she post a statement on the company website and on social media.
A Facebook post addressed "To Our Valued Team-Members" read, in part, "I was disappointed with the false and misleading story run by KSHB 41 News Station on Monday because it may have added to your feelings of anxiety and uncertainty during these difficult times. I can assure you I did not say, nor do I believe to be true, the quote attributed to me regarding a plan to deny our employees from collecting unemployment when they are entitled to it."
She later wrote in all capital letters, "YOUR HEALTH AND SAFETY IS OUR NUMBER ONE PRIORITY, NOW MORE THAN EVER."
41 Action news submitted a series of questions Thursday at Biondo’s request to her by email.
Among the questions asked was if Biondo denied telling her Donnelly College foreman to tell her workers they would not get unemployment if they self-quarantined.
She did not respond to that specific question.
Here is her full response:
Mark One is working together with the community to navigate the unprecedented situation surrounding COVID-19.
While we cannot comment on any specific employee health matters for privacy reasons, the health and safety of our employees, families and community are our top priority.
As an ‘Essential Business,’ we provide critical electrical services that are necessary for daily life and which our customers and communities must be able to depend on.
We have implemented proactive steps to mitigate risk and are meeting all of our responsibilities to respond to situations of employee exposure, in accordance with the latest guidance from the CDC and our local public health authorities.
Construction continues on Donnelly College’s 72,000-square-foot academic building.
Donnelly College President Monsignor Stuart Swetland addressed the cluster of COVID-19 cases at the construction site and his decision to keep the work going last week
"I teach my students, we teach our students, we're training the next generation of nurses, to take the best advice," Swetland said.
He said the best advice from public health officials was to continue construction on the project with added safety measures, including masks.
However, by the time Excel Constructors and the college made mask-wearing mandatory, there were already seven confirmed COVID-19 cases at the site.
When the 41 Action News Investigators asked Swetland about the accusation from workers against one of the companies at its construction site regarding denial of unemployment insurance benefits during self-quarantine, he said, "What kind of subcontractor would not have the best interest of the worker at heart? That would be someone I would not want to work with in the future.”
After the interview, Swetland issued a contradictory statement upon learning the subcontractor was Mark One. It read, in part: “Donnelly believes Mark One to be a responsible community-minded company and employer, with ethical corporate leadership. We are proud to call them a partner in this project and in our mission.”