CHARLESTON, W.Va. — State Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall) said the state’s purchasing laws will be thoroughly reviewed in the wake of a legislative audit focused on how $10 million in federal stimulus money was spent on emergency communications towers.

Courtesy photo

Senate President Jeff Kessler (D-Marshall)

Kessler said he is working with Governor Earl Ray Tomblin and House Speaker Tim Miley on legislation “to make sure this kind of stuff never happens again.”

The 41-page audit, which was released to lawmakers earlier this week, found state Homeland Security Director Jimmy Gianato and Emergency Communications Director Joe Gonzalez skipped state purchasing requirements when authorizing Premier Construction, based in Lewis County, to build 17 towers.

Instead of putting the tower project out for a statewide bid, the audit showed Gianato and Gonzalez used an existing 2009 contract Premier had with the Lewis County Commission.  Premier then contracted out the work to several companies.  The last of the towers were finished earlier this year.

The audit said state Purchasing Director David Tincher warned the two there were problems with the contract and the work should stop, but those warnings were ignored.

“I can tell you things look screwy,” Aaron Allred, legislative auditor, said.  He suggested Bill Ihlenfeld, the U.S. Attorney for West Virginia’s Northern District, may want to take a look at the matter.

Kessler said, at this point, he does not know if a federal investigation is warranted.  “I’m sure it will be examined closely by the proper authorities,” he said on Friday’s MetroNews “Talkline.”  “I think the component we need to look at is the process that was employed to do it.”

As for possible firings, “That would be grounds for, in my view, termination if there’s a willful violation of state purchasing laws, absolutely,” Kessler said.

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Comments

  • KDL

    Great comments.....how about a professional 'Strategic Sourcing' pro to do the sourcing with job objectives. I doubt that the lawmakers know anymore about sourcing then buying a loaf of bread at the grocery...how can they 'review' or set/make 'sourcing' standards? The state and federal governments enjoy wasting money like the mantra 'theirs more ($) where that came from' mentality. We are in trouble!

    • Joe

      Great comment. In other words, "Why have the taxpayers pay for one audit of the purchasing regulations when we can have them pay for two at twice the price?"!

  • Jesse's girl

    West Virginia "Democrat-speak" for, "Oops, we got caught."

  • Hillbilly

    I've got an idea....let's crucify these men for bringing West Virginia's emergency communications system into modern times and bringing signal to areas that never had any! Let's cut the towers down since they weren't built as some would like. This is all a witch hunt. Take a look at the State Purchasing Division's own website and you will see a section devoted to "Piggy-Back" Contracts. The very people crying about this are the ones who had encouraged it! They had many STATE piggy-back contracts just like the one in question and only recently voided them all in an effort to avoid the typical WV double standard.

  • George P

    They have spoken....now they need to act. Perhaps a further explanation of why things were done the way they were is appropriate. Perhaps firings. Certainly the Purchasing rules need reviewed and state employees need training. Just please do something besides review and decree that "Yep, we got a problem!"

  • james

    The Senate President and the House Speaker have spoken! Now we need more stimulus money to fund an investigation. Scratch here ol' buddy!

  • Joe

    In addition, the taxpayer-paid for audit has already outlined how the purchasing regulations were violated. I have no idea what you are now trying to accomplish. Take the audit results and confront the violators.

    To all....am I missing something here?

  • Joe

    Way to go, Jeff. You're the man, numero uno, the head honcho, the big cheese. Go ahead and review those already published purchasing regulations.

    Here's a hint....there's nothing wrong with them. The trick ois for elected and appointed representatives to FOLLOW them.

    Un freaking believable!

  • WVUP

    So they are going to "review" the purchasing rules.........for WHAT? They need to "review" who they have in charge. If I break the rules, my employer doesnt' review the RULES, they review my employment. This is a prime example of what is wrongh with this state and America.

  • Jason R.

    I love how politicians, especially in this state, like to "review" all the time but never act. They "reviewed" after Routergate as well but did anything happen?...no, they just swept it under the rug like everything else.

    • WVIRGINIAN FOR LIFE

      You are absolutely correct. It's simply damage control, then on with daily business. No white collar crime is ever prosecuted fully in tis state. Politicians and appointees are protected to the fullest. No accountability especially in this administration.