Saturday, August 22, 2015

Abuse of Black Businessman Sam Sibert: Pipeline Company Pioneer Has Tough Road

Sam Sibert

Sam L. Sibert was born in South Carolina and spent his formative years in Chicago, Illinois.

He graduated from Crane Tech High School in Chicago and became a recruit of Eastern Oklahoma State College. He spent two winning seasons at Eastern as their showcase center.

Sam left Eastern and was recruited to Texas Tech University. He later left Texas Tech to be recruited by Coach Lucius Mitchell at Kentucky State University.

As a Kentucky State Thorobred, Sams talents as center, supported his team to win two (2) of (3) consecutive NAIA Championships which have not been duplicated in over 40 years.

Mr. Sibert was noticed for his tremendous talents at the NAIA Tournaments in Kansas City, and was sought after by the NBA as well as the ABA. He was drafted by the NBA and placed in the top 20 players of college athletes, joining ranks with Julius Ervin, Bob McAdoo, Paul Westphal, and Sam’s teammate Travis Grant.   In 1972 Sam was drafted as the 1st pick by the Cincinnati Royals who later became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings.

After a successful tour with the professional basketball league, Sam redirected his career, and settled in Texas where he completed his college degree and then built a successful career in the Utility Construction Industry over 30 years. At the peak of his company’s success,

Basketball Retired Players Association (Dallas Chapter)
Sam Sibert
Has An Unarmed Black Business Been Murdered?

Black Business Matters

What happens to a dream deferred?  Does it dry up like a raisin in the sun? Or fester like a sore---And then run?  Does it stink like rotten meat? Or crust and sugar over—like a syrupy sweet?  Maybe it just sags like a heavy load.  Or does it explode? 

Langston Hughes, the poet wrote this excerpt of a montage of poems in 1951.  Now 64 years later, the realities of the inferences of Hughes’ poem speaks volumes to what happens when a businessman does everything that he is asked to do, but in return receives contempt and retaliation.  Such is the story of the S. L. Sibert Management and Construction Company in the Dallas/Fort Worth Texas. 

The story of Sam Sibert and the company he built over 25 years ago, starts off as a Cinderella-like beginning.   An opportunity presented itself in the utilities construction industry, and Sibert prepared and took advantage of those opportunities.  However, there is an old saying in this country that states that when you work hard and do your homework, you will succeed.   Right?  Not always.   For countless African American men and women in the United States, even when you work hard and do your homework, there are elements  who will do whatever it takes to create conditions that either attempt to make you fail or succeed in making you fail.

Let’s go back to 1989 when Sam Sibert and his wife, Rita, started the S. L. Sibert Construction Company, which was incorporated a few years later.  A prime contractor for TXU Utilities,  Mr. Sibert was awarded a major contract to build transmission and distribution of electric and gas in the Dallas /Fort Worth area.   Also, because of his reputation, he was given a contract to do major water system construction in Colleyville, Texas, one of the fastest growing suburbs.  The S. L. Sibert Company, grew to become the largest 100% African American owned utility construction company in the United States,  with up to 150 employees  at one time during its peak.  Now, in 2015, the S. L. Sibert Company Inc no longer exists and there are many in the communities of color wondering why.  Well let’s examine the many  reasons why the S. L. Sibert Company no longer exists.     

In 1990, the  S. L. Sibert Company worked under agreements, which completed construction  in electric and gas.  TXU  made changes in 2000  and added three additional contractors under an Alliance Agreement with given rates.  Mr. Sibert’s  company was moved to share in gas distribution only.    

        On October 1, 2004,  at 9:00 am., an entourage of  TXU company managers visited the corporate headquarters of the Sibert Company and presented Mr. Sibert with a closure agreement .(which ultimately would  have protected TXU with any contract disputes)  On that very day, TXU was set to sell it's gas division to Atmos Energy  by 12 Noon.  In  essence, this  terminated the TXU gas  contract with the Sibert Company.   Mr . Sibert  refused to sign, and was forced to accept the Atmos  agreement.  Atmost Energy purchased every gas  contract, without any changes under TXU, with the exception of the S. L. Sibert Company, who was given a separate contract.   This  contract did not include any of the original TXU agreement. 

        In February 2005,  the S. L. Sibert Company, Inc. , filed for bankruptcy, entered Chapter 11,  and was converted in January 2006 to a Chapter 7.  Mr Sibert started a second company , the  S. L. Sibert Management and Construction Company.   Sibert made  an  agreement with Atmos Energy  to repair , rebuild gas services and replace  compressed couplings in the Dallas/Fort  Worth area.   Even with the limited amount of work that Sibert was given  by Atmos,  he was able to add  employees, move to a new facility, and rebuild his fleet of equipment.   At the same time,  major gas pipelines were being built,  but,  S. L. Sibert  M & C , a prime contractor was not allowed to participate in the  bidding process.  To make matters worse, within two years,  Atmos Energy withdrew all contracts from the S. L. Sibert Company, with no explanation.   Other  gas contractors were  given  the contracts that had been withdrawn from Sibert. [News Story]     

Bruised, but not defeated, the S.L. Sibert  Management and Construction Company continued,  finding work in the state of Oklahoma,  in particular Oklahoma City and Enid, Oklahoma.   After preparing employees with new directives, and securing all of the licenses required to work in that state, the S.L. Sibert  Management and Construction Company soldiered on, only to be denied fairness once again.   S. L. Sibert  M & C  began construction for ONG, a subsidiary of  ONE OK,  the gas utilities company for Oklahoma, to do  major pipeline  replacement of  gas.

The Sibert Company worked for ONG  completing a  high pressured 12”and 16”steel pipeline  in Enid, Oklahoma.  This dual pipeline  carried the flow of gas to the northern  sections of Oklahoma.  A 36”water pipeline to a fertilizer plant, was not located by certified locators for the city, state, or ONG,  nor was the possible existence of the pipe mentioned to the Sibert Company. The pipeline was tapped by an excavator and high pressured water was released, which caused a delay in finishing the job.  A work order was submitted at the completion of the project, which included the expenses for the delay, however, this change order was denied by ONG.  The disagreements between the companies caused the additional contracts that Sibert had been awarded, unceremoniously taken away.  Was this a case of bad breaks, or was it the politics of dealing with an African American owned business capable of doing the job? 

Then came Chesapeake Energy. [Story]  And it doesn’t end there.,  In 2013 they returned to a division of Energy Future Holdings Corporation, Oncor, an electrical delivery corporation.  Sibert  had met with several company execs for a number of years to enter into an agreement to do contract work with Oncor.  He was awarded a contract, a small contract, to hire several employees to work in the service centers to do electrical work.  Note that Sibert was not allowed to manage nor supervise his employees.  Can we say setup?   A contract that was never meant to succeed in any way, was subsequently and unceremoniously taken away with unsubstantiated reasons, no explanations, just taken away after a 9 (nine) month run.   No company executive would meet with him to discuss the situation.   He was directed to the the V. P. of Community Affairs, an African American.  This meeting resulted  without  resolution.  Now let’s talk about the  community.

Here is a company that spent $1.5 million in labor costs per year for  15 years in the community and here are the Corporations who appear to have problems when there is  an experienced,  sustainable,  African American  owned  business  that  had proven itself to be  capable of being a prime contractor, treated with great disrespect.  What will the  “Community” think of this when the word gets out?    

So ….”What  happens to a dream deferred?”……

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