Earlier this year, I and others reported to you about an independent legislative audit which found that West Virginia wasted between $8 million and $15 million in federal stimulus money buying over sized routers to place in community anchor institutions, such as schools, libraries and state police stations.

The audit said Cisco up-sold the state and the state’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program made a series of errors in approving the deal.

That wasn’t the end of the story.

Now the legislative auditor has issued a new report about even more mismanagement in how the state spent millions of dollars in stimulus money, this time for 17 emergency communications towers.

According to the audit, state homeland security director Jimmy Gianato and emergency communications director Joe Gonzalez failed to comply with a series of state purchasing laws in awarding $10 million in tower construction business to Premier Construction of Lewis County.

The audit says Gonzalez had a “professional relationship” with the owner of Premier Construction and was even used by the company as a reference.  Gonzalez also played a role in Premier being awarded an earlier contract for building a single communications tower in Lewis County.

In 2010, when the state had an opportunity to expand its emergency communications network with federal stimulus money, the audit says Gonzalez and Gianato hired Premier without going through the proper bid process.  Premier then contracted out most of the work to five different companies, four of which were not licensed to do business in West Virginia (a violation of state law).

When state purchasing director David Tincher got wind of the tower project and became aware it had not been competitively bid, he warned Gonzalez and Gianato that the awarding of the contract “may not have been done in accordance with appropriate procedures.”

The audit says that despite Tincher’s recommendation to Gianato and Gonzalez that they stop construction, the work continued.

This all sounds remarkably similar to the “Routergate” scandal.  Large amounts of federal stimulus money are pushed into the state, where bureaucrats ignore proper procedures, despite warnings.

At best, this is gross incompetence of the kind that gets you fired in the private sector, but since this is state government, we can expect the usual shrug of the shoulders from under the capitol dome.

At worst, we have, at least according to the audit, willful violations of state law and a curious relationship between key state officials and a tiny company that got a huge state contract without going through the bid process.

U.S. Attorney Bill Ihlenfeld has let it be known that he has a public corruption unit in his office.  This audit would make for an interesting read by his team.

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Comments

  • Medman

    I would love for someone, someday to put together a list of corruption scandals in WV over the past 50 years. The core of the problem is that we get a bunch of hacks in the Legislature and government because the intelligent and brightest people will not take these jobs because of the party line or unwritten rules for being a good bureaucrat. Anyone who runs for an office in this State and tells the truth and is honest will never be elected, or make it to a power position, period.

    • Shadow

      I think most of the brightest and most energetic people starting leaving WV in 1940 and it has changed very little over the years. If you didn't inherit anything, what is there to stay for?

      • mntnman

        Family, mountains, way of life, work, family, environment, life, etc. I live here because I choose to, not because I have to. Love this place, would want live no where else (I have). If you don't like it, then why are YOU here?

        • Shadow

          WV can be a great place to live if you have an exciting job that pays a good living wage. It didn't when I got out of the Service and there was a big wonderful world out there and a lot of exciting jobs available. I am sure over 50% of my high school class left WV for the same reason. WV is a good place to be if you don't have to make a living. Having traveled over a good part of the USA, there are many community's where I could be happy, WV is just one one of them.

        • DH

          Agree. We don't generally appreciate how good some things are here. I too choose to live here. All you bright and energetic commenters should find your place in public service. We need you!

          • Shadow

            I agree with you, WV has a lot to offer. My problem with WV is that it is stuck in the love of the Status Quo and there are a lot of things that can be done to improve the economy and the outlook for the young folks coming up. As things stand now, I think their future looks bleak.

  • FungoJoe

    If I have said it once , I've said it a million times, "Liberal ultra repressive progressives
    (LURPS) equal corruption. Wherever you find liberal progressive rule, you find corruption, over-regulation, miserably failing policies, extremely high crime rates, and huge taxpayer fatigue.
    Hoppy, you may borrow my coined phrase of "taxpayer fatigue" at any time. It is going to be the front and center topic of the 2014 election.

  • TD

    Kudos to Ted Cruz, he's absolutely wrong on the issues and probably half crazy but at least he went to the floor and spoke his point of view the way it's supposed to be done unlike his Republican brethren who have filibustered hundreds of times in the past couple years by simply saying I filibuster. I applaud.

    • TD's understudy

      Yes teacher, Cruz opened his mouth and out came the lies. I am so glad you could finally join me today to help educate these uneducatable people.

  • mntnman

    Serving in public office for 15 years now, I'll never understand why obvious conflicts are ignored and tolerated. On my board, if any of us evens smells a wiff of conflict, we recuse ourselves. Sometimes, it even borders on the absurd. Nonetheless, better to make all efforts to avoid impropriety than to engage in it.

    Perhaps if someone went to jail, or a private company were required to disgorge profits. Or, if the offending governmental agent was required to reimburse the government, then this might not happen. Not going to hold my breathe, but just sayin there are ways to deal with this. One thing is certain, whether public or private, where there is money to be made, some people will cheat, steal and lie to get to it. Just in the nature of some human beings.

  • Marshall

    OK....we get it regarding the routers. They were overpriced and far exceeded the requirement. However, regarding the towers. Did we get towers? Were they properly installed and did they meet the technical requirements? Was the price reasonable...within expectations for what they are? These are the questions that should be asked. The Emergency communications system was woefully inadequate, especially in the more mountainous rural areas where good communications can make the difference between life and death. Let's not overlook the reality of necessity as we go on another witch hunt.

    • DonaldH

      That's right! Finally someone that would understand why the Bush Administration didn't follow the 6 month letting period and bidding for trash pick-up after Katrina... They gave it to their buddies!!!

    • 2XLPatriot

      Something "funny" about these new communication towers.....Most of the agencies that would use this new communication equipment, AKA; Trunking System, can't afford the radios to use the new towers. Lewis County included.

    • FungoJoe

      Kanawha County tried out there new emergency tower last month after installment. Guess what? It didn't work.
      Ooops. Didn't see that coming.

    • Charleston,WV

      Marshall you are exactly right. Who cares if the contractors and subcontractors violated WV statute, especially if the ends justify the means. The main point is we have the towers. It should make us all feel good.

      • TD's understudy

        Yes yes yes. You are so right. The ends do justify the means. Just think of all that emergency communications that has likely saved a life, not just any life but that of a child. Anyone questioning this hates children and wants them to die.

        • TD

          Now we're getting somewhere, be at class 8 am sharp, no time to waste when I have an opportunity to enlighten a fresh mind.

          • TD's understudy

            Am I allowed to wear pants this time?

        • Hop'sHip

          Are you sure that you're TD's understudy? TD is a pretty bright guy and it is hard to believe that he would choose you as his sub, because .. well let me be tactful here... you don't seem too smart. It's like Tim Tebow subbing for Tom Brady. You might want to return to the attic.

    • Hop'sHip

      Thank you, Marshall. It isn't often here that you find such a thoughtful comment. I hope you give us more.

      • DonaldH

        Chairman Hips
        On the rare days you fail to show up the thoughtful post seem to be aplenty-- at least in ratio.

      • bulldog95

        Oh yes, it made perfect sense. The routers are likely still sitting in a box, but hey at least we got them right.

        • Hop'sHip

          Did you bother to even read Marshall's comment? I think not.

          • Hop'sHip

            I interpreted his comment differently. I thought he was saying maybe we should get more information before we start drawing conclusions. I am all for getting money out of political campaigns, if that is your other point.

          • bulldog95

            Yes I read the comment. The comment implied that we got the routers, move on, get over it. Now we need to look and see if we got those towers, were they done/installed correctly, and so on.
            We got the routers and now we are paying for storage for said routers. So what difference does it make if we got them or not. What difference does it make that someone got paid way to much for something only to turn around and funnel that money back in the form of campaign contributions.

  • Joe

    Well, I guess on a positive note, think of all the prevailing wages and disability insurance premiums that were avoided to be paid. In fact, isn't this strategy right out of a former energy broker's playbook?! I would think the dept of revenue would want to have a chat with these clowns about back taxes.

  • TD's understudy

    This is Bush's fault. He got us into wars and send money to the oil companies, defense contractors, Haliburton, Koch brothers.

    Ahh, I still have much to learn, how do I link the tea party to this again?

    • Hop'sHip

      My guess is Fungo got himself a brand new name and he thinks himself to be very clever.

      • FungoJoe

        No. Not me. Thanks for thinking of me, though.

      • TD's understudy

        What exactly is this Fungo that you speak of? I am an understudy of TD and after months and months of being in the attic reading the prophet TD comments from this website I feel that I am ready to forth and spread his gospel.

        • Hop'sHip

          Well, I might be wrong. But if you are not Fungo, you should be HIS understudy because you sure sound like him. I wasn't aware that TD claimed to be a prophet. There are many who post here that claim to speak for God, but I don't remember TD doing so. Maybe you mean GregG? He is big supporter of all things religious.

  • DWM

    Give me one good reason why the two politicians won't be doing time for this?

    It is time taxpayers go on the warpath.

    • TD's understudy

      They wont be doing time because they didnt break any laws. Government is all knowing with the peoples best intrest at heart. Bush and Cheny should be jail as well as those pesky tea party people.

  • leroy jethro gibbs

    business as usual in the mountain state

  • Metzger

    its a beautiful thing

  • ConservativeRealist

    Link to the story of the surfer on food stamps - http://dailycaller.com/2013/08/10/the-new-face-of-snap-food-stamps-buy-lobster-for-surfer-and-his-buddies/ - but there is, "no waste"...

  • ConservativeRealist

    WARNING: THIS POST CONTAINS OODLES SARCASM

    Like ole Nancy Pelosi said, "There is no waste in the Federal budget..." And we all know that if we run out of money, we'll just print or borrow more like we did for the one trillion that we spent on the Stmulus package - also known as Obama's New Deal. Who cares that in the original New Deal the money was spent on truly shovel ready projects like roads, dams, and other critical infrastructure unlike this past "Stimulus" that allowed as much as 40% (er that's 400 Billion) to go to our "partners" overseas for them to invest in America!!! These petty allegations of goverment waste and fiscal irresponsiblity pale in comparison to the travesties that are occurring right now in our country - to fix the economy and put people back to work we must first put all the coal miners out of work but only after we take their guns away, because we all know history and how pesky those miners can be if armed and allowed to fight for their rights and their jobs. We must shatter the myths that to get ahead in life you must work hard and stay in school for we have created these things called entitlements - giveaways that allow a surfer from California to buy lobster and sushi while he recovers from a hard day at the beach so that he can go play with his buddies in a rock band - for cash under the table not reportable as income. Jimmy Gianato and his friends are just living the new American Dream!!!

    • TD's understudy

      So what I see you saying is that you are just mad that you didnt get to eat lobster,

      • ConservativeRealist

        It's not just the lobster...I got no sushi either!!!

  • Larry

    I am still trying to figure out how Gianato is pronounced Janette?

  • Hop'sHip

    Of course Hoppy and his groupies have taken a legitimate story that needs a thorough investigation and turned it into an anti-government revival session. Why, this would never happen in the private sector. Hoppy, there is a reason why Dilbert is such a popular comic strip. Incompetence, corruption and stark stupidity exists everywhere. Because of sunshine laws and public audits, we are more likely to learn about it in the public sector. Perhaps, like the pointy-haired boss, Hoppy is blissfully unaware of his own contributions to human failings. Like so many who post here, maybe he believes that HIS excrement doesn't offend olfactory systems.

    • Wowbagger

      Hippie,

      I have to agree, although not necessarily your specific point. Human beings in any large organization left to their own devices form bureaucracies. These tend to act to profit (not necessarily monetary profits), preserve and perpetuate themselves, and sometimes appear to act bizzarely to people outside the organization.

      Examples include WVU faculty and staff, the federal government, WV state government, and a lot of big corporations. The major difference is that the corporations have the discipline of needing to make a profit and ultimately have to answer to owners who are external to the organization (eg. stockholders).

    • DonaldH

      Hmm, interesting,, I researched this dilbert cartoon you spoke of and read several---- Funny stuff, man. But this "pointy haired boss" you likened Hoppy to-- The caricature of a "grumpy old white man"

      Interesting you conjured up this character to liken hoppy to in your vain attempt to alienate Hoppy from any credibility. Coincidence? highly doubtful. Subliminal? most likely..

    • Charleston,WV

      Hop'sHip: According to data just recently released from the Census Bureau: "Americans paid a record of $114.032 billion in state and local individual income taxes in the second quarter of this year, according to the Census Bureau. That was up $7.787 billion—or 7.3 percent—from the previous all-time record of $106.245 billion in state and local individual income taxes that Americans paid in the second quarter of 2008".

      Do not worry that we are wasting tax payer money with the highest bidders, because we have more tax revenue to waste in the future. All is good!

    • Charleston,WV

      Exactly Hop's Hip! To quote the future Presidential Hopeful Hillary Clinton, "What difference does it make"?

    • Retired Charlie

      HH,

      How can a story about government employee incompetence, corruption and/or stupidity not be anti government? It's not Hoppy poop that's offending your nose; button your collar button.

    • Kirk

      The fact that there is incompetence and waste in the private sector has absolutely no bearing on the fact that this story, if true, represents willful disregard for the public interest. Businesses are accountable to their owners/shareholders. The government is (meant to be) accountable to its citizens. It is a journalist's job to report on this.

      • Hop'sHip

        I thought I had made clear that this was a legitimate story that needed thorough investigation. My objection was how it was quickly turned into a political agenda.

        • DonaldH

          Yes, I agree. It's a story about waste that we need to discuss in great detail but there's no need for us to mention who was doing the wasting... unless, of course, Halliburton is involved...

        • Kirk

          I'm trying to imagine a way that a story about politicians and government officials abusing their power for personal gain wouldn't have an inherent political agenda...

          • James

            Very good Kirk !

        • bulldog95

          This is only a political agenda to you because it happens to have happened when democrats were and are in charge. If this had happened when a republican was in charge you would would have a tingle in your pants and demanding someone to be jailed.

          • Hop'sHip

            With all due and undue respect, Mr. Dog, I am against government malfeasance no matter who is the perpetrator (and I am not a Democrat).

    • DonaldH

      Who's this Dilbert?

      • Hop'sHip

        DH: I assumed you would be one blissfully incapable of self-awareness, so ...never mind.

        • DonaldH

          Hmmm, am I "self-aware"?
          Well, let me check my "self-awareness" but before I do that I must first have a scale to judge my awareness-- let's see,, yep,, I'm aware I'm the more intelligent in this conversation.. And that isn't a conclusion reached by "assumption",, it's a conclusion reached by,,, well, never mind. You're dismissed, now..

          But before you sulk off, you should really consider changing your moniker to "AdHomAttacks -r-Hip"

  • Wowbagger

    Hmmm...

    Everybody's favorite Governor Joe Manchin was in office and when all of this corrupt purchasing was taking place.

    Let me remind you Joe is a micro-manager and I'll bet knew every big purchase that was going on during his tenure.

    • James

      Governor Joe probably setup the whole thing !