Features

Roger LeBoeuf – Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority

Constructing a secure future in state transportation for taxpayer money

By the time Roger LeBoeuf joined the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority three years ago, he had already built up a decades-long career in construction law. One moment stands out to him.

He was sitting in a deposition where a legal counsel asked a developer about bidding wars among contractors. The developer eventually gave a wry laugh and bluntly said he’d rather flip burgers all day than spend even a couple hours handling public works, such as water and sewage treatment, electrical grids, municipal buildings and schools, as well as roads, bridges and pipelines.

While LeBoeuf had an internal chuckle and didn’t quite agree, he understood the perspective. He’d seen firsthand how public works can be tedious, frustrating, and often wrapped up in red tape—and all under a limited, restrictive budget. Yet, this never bothered him.

“I enjoy construction law very much as the challenges are unique,” he tells Vanguard.

That’s why he didn’t hesitate to leave the private practice realm when he was interviewing with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority, a public agency that handles public transportation throughout the Greater Boston area. He joined as its counsel, capital delivery senior lead in March 2020, right at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic that brought a whole new set of complex challenges.

“It was certainly a very awkward time to begin a new job, but it also gave me the perfect opportunity to apply my skills from several perspectives, from public owner to contractor and lawyer,” LeBoeuf says. “MBTA wanted an attorney with extensive knowledge in construction law—and that is my background.”

Contracting ease and efficiency

Despite having to contend with a global pandemic, LeBoeuf dove into his role, tackling all legal matters ranging from protecting taxpayer funds to ensuring MBTA was honoring all the terms of its open contracts.

One of his first tasks was overhauling contracts with his colleagues in the legal department to ensure MBTA construction projects ran smoothly, efficiently and at—or preferably below—budget. He explains contract disputes can quickly cost hundreds of millions of dollars, so being well-prepared from the beginning means saving time and money.

His goal was to have solid contracts and templates in place so no one was scrambling, especially with the slew of incoming projects due to federal stimulus funds. One of the most critical components of this project was the main contract for design-bid-build construction, which means the vendor and MBTA contractor take full responsibility for everything from leasing the land to opening the doors of the building once the project is complete.

Not only did he work with the legal and construction administration teams to remove jargon—cleaning up and changing the order of provisions so it’s clearer for readers—but also implemented some new features, including providing options for alternate dispute resolution. For instance, disputes over a certain amount require contractors to meet at least once with MBTA to try to collaboratively find a solution—more times if the project is even larger.

“Having a conversation with a contractor in cases of disputes is better and preferable to expensive litigation, so we have spelled this out in the contracts,” he says.

In August 2022, LeBoeuf and the MBTA legal team rolled out the new contracts “with the help of the highly skilled employees in our capital programs departments,” he says.

Securing taxpayer dollars

While overhauling the contracts, LeBoeuf and his team also worked on several other complex legal matters, such as the new institution of a “reversed liquidated damage clause” to resolve delay claims.

In compact cities like Boston, MBTA will receive delay claims if a project falls behind schedule for any reason. According to LeBoeuf, contractors will often blame MBTA, stating it did something that lengthened the project timeline. So, MBTA will often receive claims from contractors for their added costs, “a major area of conflict,” he says.

Working to correct and reverse such claims, he’s added a new clause into MBTA contracts stating if MBTA is at fault for certain project delays, it will pay a predetermined amount of money per day for that inconvenience. This eliminates a legal fight later over the amount of money owed, LeBoeuf says.

“We’re doing this to protect the public’s money, whether that’s revenue or taxpayer dollars,” he says and adds he and his team are ensuring MBTA is in strict compliance with every one of its contracts, honoring terms while also carefully considering public interests.

Careful money management means better facilities and services for state residents and visitors. In fact, the MBTA recently awarded an approximately $300 million contract for what will become the Quincy Bus Maintenance Facility. It will serve as a station for electric buses as the MBTA system transitions to an all-electric fleet.

In his spare time, LeBoeuf enjoys teaching his practice to others—he recently accepted a position as an adjunct professor in the legal studies program of his undergraduate alma mater, Bryant University, in Smithfield, Rhode Island.

He still believes his biggest win is choosing a career in construction law because it keeps his mind active daily.

“Working at MBTA doesn’t just allow me the opportunity to continually provide sound legal advice, but I also get to see the impact of that advice as we create a better, enhanced transportation system for the state,” LeBoeuf says.

View this feature in the Vanguard Fall II 2023 Edition here.

Published on: September 18, 2023

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