Loose Screws

Page 6 of 8

Williams noted that Diamondbacks attorney Holm had told the reporter, David Schwartz, that the team was waiting for delivery of a calibrated wrench to conduct tests on 10 connections -- or about 120 bolts -- no later than October 9.

Schwartz told Holm, according to Williams' memo, that he might hold his story for the results of the tests.

The team never conducted the torque tests on the nuts.

And Schwartz never wrote the story.

The mere possibility of a news story provided the stadium district with additional leverage to force the team to initiate some type of tests on the bolts that might resolve the issues raised in Cook's letter.

Tom Irvine fired off letters to the team on October 3, 4 and 5 demanding the Diamondbacks produce a report addressing the issues raised by Cook.

Irvine said the report would be made available to Schwartz, who was thought to be preparing a story with an angle that the team was delaying the repair of a potentially serious safety issue because of its poor financial condition.

Irvine concluded the series of letters by threatening to invoke a clause in the team's stadium use agreement requiring a formal meeting to resolve the alleged safety issue.

On October 9, Martin/Martin principal Stanley Welton examined "all of the accessible Dywidag connections" looking for evidence of cracked paint around the nuts, he stated in a memo to the team's attorney.

Welton gave no indication how many connections he looked at -- other than a somewhat vague statement that he looked at "approximately 80% of the critical connections that are exposed to view." Welton declined to comment for this story, referring questions to his attorney.

"There was no sign of any movement in any of the connections that I observed," he stated in a letter to Diamondbacks attorney Holm.

Welton's inspection falls far short of a complete review. According to a stadium district official, Welton did not look at any of the critical upper concourse Dywidag nuts -- the same nuts that were only tightened to half the tension specified in the original plans -- because they are behind walls.

Welton's assessment was relayed to former stadium district director Bob Williams rather than current stadium district director Bill Scalzo.

"Stan inspected the Ballpark yesterday, gives it a clean bill of health, and recommends no further testing," Williams stated in a memo sent to each member of the County Board of Supervisors.

"In my opinion, this is sufficient to close the book on this issue," Williams wrote to supervisors.

Notably, Williams made his recommendation not as a stadium district official, but in his capacity as director of the Criminal Justice Facilities Development Department. The stadium district has yet to take a formal, written position on the Dywidag issue or Welton's conclusions.

The stadium district's unofficial position is to accept Welton's conclusions based on a limited visual inspection of the nuts, and Williams' review of the situation.

"People from our end who were involved in construction reviewed everything and determined there wasn't an issue," says stadium district director Scalzo.

Williams was quick to close the book on the issue even though he had reason to doubt the reliability of Martin/Martin's inspection.

Williams' own records indicate that Martin/Martin was prepared to conclude the Dywidag bolts were properly secured even before it conducted its visual inspection or reviewed ATL's inspection reports to determine whether the Dywidag nuts were properly installed.

According to Williams' October 5 memo, Martin/Martin had promised the Diamondbacks -- before any tests had been done on the connections -- that it would issue a letter "stating there are no structural problems in this regard and that would close it for the team."

Williams, according to his memo, asked the team how Martin/Martin could make such a determination "without the test records on tightening of the nuts."

Williams' memo doesn't indicate what the team's response was to his question.

He did, however, share his personal thoughts on the matter.

"I guess that is their business," the memo stated.

A week after Martin/Martin issued its conclusion, Geiger Engineers, the peer reviewer for Martin/Martin who in July recommended physically testing the tightness of nuts with a torque wrench, backed Welton's conclusion.

"Since he [Welton] apparently did not see any cracked paint, we concur with his conclusion that no movements occurred at the nuts," Paul Gossen stated in a letter to the team.

In an interview, Gossen says he was amenable to changing the testing protocol for the nuts from one where a wrench would be placed and actually tightened to see if the nuts were loose to simply looking at the paint for cracks.

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John Dougherty
Contact: John Dougherty