On Nov. 23, 2016, an inspector from the U.S. Department of Labor arrived at a Marriott hotel under construction in Flagstaff, Ariz. He was there to examine Par 2 Contractors LLC.
The supervisor for Par 2 “was cagey,” the inspector wrote later. He didn’t want to answer questions about what he was paid; neither did three employees who were interviewed that day, the inspector reported.
The Labor Department now alleges that Par 2 is the successor to another company called Paragon Contractors Corp. — a company operated by members of the polygamous Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints.
The Labor Department is asking that Paragon and its owner, Brian Jessop, be held in contempt of court for circumventing a judge’s orders and using teenage workers again.
A four-day federal court hearing began Monday afternoon in Salt Lake City. The Labor Department is trying to convince U.S. District Judge David Nuffer of the lineage connecting Paragon to Par 2.
Paragon has twice been found to have used child labor in violation of the law. In 2007, it agreed to no longer use illegal child labor. That typically means keeping children away from power tools and machinery and obeying the same pay and overtime rules that apply to adults.
Then in 2012, CNN broadcast video of children from the FLDS harvesting pecans at a ranch near Hurricane, Utah. After a hearing like the one that starts Monday, Campbell found Paragon used children as unpaid laborers.
Campbell in 2016 ordered Paragon to pay $200,000 in back wages and ordered it and Jessop for the next five years to report to a special master to ensure the company was following child labor laws.
But before Campbell even issued her ruling, the Labor Department alleges, Jessop had moved on to Par 2. He never informed the special master about Par 2 or any jobs where he was working.
The Labor Department says it also found two cases of unlawful child labor at the Flagstaff hotel site — a pair of 17-year-olds who used nail guns.
In a court filing, Jessop contends he was never an officer or employee at Par 2; his brother was trying to build the company and Jessop introduced him to contractors.
On Monday, attorneys introduced competing documents. Jessop signed bids that Par 2 submitted to general contractors, and he spoke to contractors about those bids, but the contracts between Par 2 and the contractors did not include Jessop’s name.
Jeff Wilson, an inspector with the Arizona Division of Occupational Safety & Health, testified that when he arrived to inspect the job in Flagstaff in 2016, the foreman of the framing contractor introduced himself as working for Paragon. The foreman also gave Wilson a copy of a safety policy with Paragon’s name on it, Wilson testified.
But executives later told Wilson the company’s name was Par 2, he testified, and Wilson removed the Paragon reference from some of his report. That led to questioning from Par 2 attorney Jeff Matura about why Wilson was testifying about Paragon when his reports say Par 2.
“Of course, my notes don’t say that, because I changed them,” Wilson explained.
As for the two 17-year-olds found to have used nail guns, a lawyer for Par 2 told inspectors that boys that age are accustomed to using such tools in the FLDS enclave of Hildale, according to court documents.
Par 2 reported over $8 million in income in 2016, according to court documents.
Jessop is also a city councilman in Hildale, Utah. He sat silently Monday, often rubbing his forehead and the brim of his nose.