A West Virginia board that licenses engineers has filed complaints against at least three individuals and a company snared in a federal investigation into kickbacks at the state Division of Highways, according to a letter sent Monday to the House of Delegates.
The state Board of Registration for Professional Engineers said it initiated its own inquiry earlier this year after two former DOH engineers and a Putnam County contractor agreed to plead guilty to federal charges.
Last week, Delegate Gary Howell, R-Mineral, who heads the House Government Organization Committee, directed the board to disclose what steps it has taken to revoke the licenses of those who admitted to taking part in a “pay-for-play” scheme that illegally diverted $1.5 million worth of DOH contracts to a South Carolina firm called Dennis Corp.
Engineering board President Edward L. Robinson told Howell the agency is “proceeding with dispatch” in its investigation.
“The board shares your concern and agrees that attention to these matters is necessary in order for the board to fulfill its duty to safeguard life, health and property, while promoting the public welfare in its regulation of the practice of engineering in West Virginia,” Robinson wrote in Monday’s letter.
Earlier this year, Dennis Corp. owner Daniel R. Dennis and DOH traffic engineers Bruce Kenney II and James Travis Miller pleaded guilty to federal charges. Dennis’ engineering license is listed as inactive, Kenney has let his license lapse, while Miller’s license remains active, according to the engineering board website.
Miller works for a company called Mountaineer Engineering and Transportation Solutions, which holds a “certificate of authorization” through the engineering board to operate in West Virginia.
Dennis Corp.’s license is inactive.
Mark Whitt, owner of Scott Depot-based electrical contractor Bayliss & Ramey, also has pleaded guilty, after admitting that he benefited financially by concealing the flow of funds from the DOH to Dennis Corp.
Two weeks ago, Andrew P. Nichols, a civil engineering professor at Marshall who worked for Dennis Corp. eight years ago, pleaded guilty to tax fraud charges in connection with the kickback scheme. Nichols, who remains on Marshall’s payroll, still holds an active West Virginia engineering license, according to the engineering board’s website.
“I’m sure the board will address this development at its July meeting,” Robinson told Howell in the letter.
Robinson also disclosed that the engineering board’s executive director, Leslie Rosier-Tabor, has stepped aside from “all substantive discussions” related to the board’s investigation, according to the letter, which doesn’t state her reasons for doing so. A board member also recused himself from the matter in January, Robinson wrote.
Robinson notified Howell that details of the engineering board’s investigation would remain confidential until the board completes its probe. A board investigator has been assigned to look into the complaints.
Since 2006, the DOH has paid Bayliss & Ramey $65.4 million. Dennis Corp has received more than $1 million directly from the DOH, but also was paid as a subcontractor through Bayliss & Ramey.
Both companies remain eligible to bid on state contracts, according to the Purchasing Division web site.
Federal prosecutors allege that Nichols, Whitt, Dennis, Kenney and Miller illegally diverted highway projects to Dennis Corp.
The U.S. Attorneys Office, the state Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations, the State Police, the FBI and the IRS started investigating the kickback scheme in 2015. Investigators received a tip the day after former DOH Equipment Division chief Bob Andrew was indicted on federal charges. Andrew killed himself with a shotgun just hours after being indicted on racketeering charges.