State Transportation Officials Say They're Following Grand Jury's Guidelines
Thursday, November 30th 2006, 8:08 am
News On 6
OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) _ State highway officials said Wednesday they have improved their process for barring unscrupulous contractors, as recommended by the state's multicounty grand jury, but have been hampered in one case by a judge's ruling.
On Tuesday, a report by the state's multicounty grand jury referred to the investigation of Glover Construction Co. and the indictment of company president George Paul Glover and some of his employees.
``While we clearly recognize that the Oklahoma Department of Transportation was defrauded, the department continued to entertain bids, award contracts and pay claims to Glover even after the grand jury investigation was well under way,'' jurors wrote.
The report said ODOT needs to upgrade its procedures to ban Glover from contracting with the state.
Norman Hill, ODOT's general counsel, said the agency began proceedings to bar Glover from bidding on contracts back in June, but that action was blocked by a judge in Muskogee County. Hill said his agency is appealing that order to the Oklahoma Supreme Court.
Hill said ODOT and the Federal Highway Administration have filed separate civil actions to suspend Glover from doing business with the state.
Glover and three of his employees were indicted for allegedly conspiring to defraud the state by using unsuitable, prohibited material in road construction. Another charge alleged witness intimidation.
At a hearing Wednesday in McIntosh County District Court in Eufaula, Judge Gene Mowery took under consideration a defense motion to quash the indictment in the fraud case because of insufficient evidence. Mowery has scheduled a trial for Jan. 16 on the charge.
Hill said Glover's company has bid on contracts, but has not been awarded any by the state agency since June.
``If not for the injunction against us, we would not have been allowing him to bid these past few months,'' he said.
``We don't disagree with what the grand jury said, I just don't think they were aware of what we have in place and that we were already doing it,'' he said.
Glover Construction is accused of substituting substandard gravel from a quarry owned by Glover or an affiliate for better quality gravel the company was supposed to use on a 2000 project on a four-mile stretch of U.S. 64 in Muskogee County.
``That project got pretty notorious because while the contractors were still building it, it started falling apart,'' Hill said.
Glover Construction redid the project at the insistence of transportation officials and now wants the department to pay an extra $3.4 million to cover its added costs. ODOT said it refused to pay the claim.
``We haven't found a shred of evidence that he is guilty of anything,'' D.D. Hayes, attorney for Glover, said Wednesday.
Glover's company was banned from bidding on state highway projects for 15 months in the mid-1980s after a federal bid-rigging investigation that involved several states.
Hill said Glover cooperated with federal investigators in that case and was reinstated to bid on state road contracts under procedures that have since been changed.