Subcontractor pulls out of Cobb courthouse project

With two weeks left until the grand opening of the new Cobb County Courthouse, a local subcontractor responsible for masonry work at the $63 million facility announced this week that it was withdrawing from the project.

Zebra Construction, a Suwanee-based commercial concrete and masonry subcontractor, informed county officials and lead contractor Turner Construction on Monday that it would not be able to finish the job. Officials with Zebra declined to give reasons for the last-minute change.

"Their reasons for pulling out are something we can't disclose," said Raazia Hall, an attorney with the firm that represents Zebra.

Spokesmen for Cobb County and Turner said that the courthouse remained on schedule for its Dec. 18 opening.

"The courthouse is still on target," county spokesman Robert Quigley said Friday. "As long as Turner gets it worked out, the county really doesn't have anything to say about their relationship with a subcontractor."

Turner also declined to go into detail about Zebra's withdrawal from the project. The contractor said that it would assume control of remaining brick work at the courthouse.

"Whatever might have happened there shouldn't affect the timeline," said Mitch Leff, president of the public relations company that represents Turner. "They're still on schedule."

On Friday, workers continued to put finishing touches on the towering downtown Marietta facility. Several workers expressed concern to WSB-TV Channel 2 this week that they might miss a week of pay, but laborers at the site Friday declined comment.

Hall said the workers would be paid for their work at the site.

"Our client will compensate the employees for all the work performed while they were employed by Zebra," Hall said. "They're going to make sure of it. They're going to do the right thing."

Zebra came under scrutiny earlier this year after a county investigation found that they weren't verifying that bricklayers at the site were legally allowed to work in the United States. In September, the Cobb Sheriff's Office arrested two employees at the site working for Zebra -- one from Mexico and another from Honduras -- on charges of using false identification documents.

John Ciancia, a local bricklayers union organizer who initiated the investigation, said Zebra may have started losing money on the contract once it had to stop using illegal workers.

"Zebra should have been removed from the job a long time ago," Ciancia said.

Zebra's attorney, Hall, declined to respond to Ciancia's remarks.