“We had people there well over 12 hours a day for weeks because they had a hard opening of Sept. 12 and you can’t open if the lights don’t work and the fire alarms don’t work and the fire marshal can’t inspect it,” said Tim Miller, executive vice president of AES. “There is a lot of work that went into that hotel, and it didn’t happen by accident.”
Trump got his wish: The hotel was ready enough that on Sept. 16 he held a campaign event there honoring veterans, which was carried live on national television. He touted the hotel as having been completed “under budget and ahead of schedule” and said that when it opened officially the following month it would be “one of the great hotels anywhere in the world.”
But around the same time, Miller said, the Trump Organization and its construction manager, Lendlease, stopped paying AES. Three days before Christmas, AES filed a mechanic’s lien with the D.C. government alleging that it was out almost $2.1 million. “Merry Christmas and a happy new year to us,” Miller said.
The AES filing brings the total of allegedly unpaid bills on the hotel to more than $5 million. Washington-area plumbing firm Joseph J. Magnolia Inc. and Northern Virginia construction company, A&D Construction, are seeking $2.98 million and $79,700 respectively.
A representative for Lendlease has referred comment on liens to the Trump Organization. In an emailed statement, the Trump Organization did not address the specifics of the legal action.
“In developments of this scale and complexity the filing of nominal liens at the conclusion of construction is not uncommon as part of the close out process,” a representative for the company wrote. “In the case of Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C., the Trump Organization has invested over $200 million dollars into the redevelopment of the historic Old Post Office and is incredibly proud of what is now considered to be one the most iconic hotels anywhere in the country.”
Miller said he considered not discussing the issue publicly because he does not want to make a political issue out of it. AES had a $17 million contract with the Trumps, and all but the final $2 million had been paid, Miller said.
“The majority of that [final] work was done in the last 45 days or so before the hotel opened, and it required a tremendous amount of manpower and effort on our part to get that done because it was a crunch to get the hotel open,” he said.
Miller said he simply did not want the company, family-owned and founded 32 years ago, to have to eat the costs. The hotel’s total price tag was around $212 million. Trump claims he is worth $10 billion.
“We’re not in this for any sort of political reasons,” Miller said. “We have no ax to grind, political or otherwise. We’re a business. We have 700 employees that we pay every week. We have bills. We are effectively financing this work, and we don’t think it’s right. That’s really it.”
Follow Jonathan O’Connell on Twitter: @oconnellpostbiz