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Caltrans workers falsified testing data on bridges, auditor finds

March 28, 2013|By Patrick McGreevy
  • Caltrans workers inspect a transition road bridge over the 134 Freeway in Glendale. The bridge was not one of those identified in a state auditor's report on falsified testing data.
Caltrans workers inspect a transition road bridge over the 134 Freeway… (Katie Falkenberg / For The…)

Two Caltrans technicians tasked with doing foundation testing for construction projects claimed over 260 hours they didn’t work, and one of them falsified testing data on 10 projects, according to an investigative report Thursday by state Auditor Elaine Howle.

The supervisor for the two technicians failed to require them to obtain preapproval for overtime, or to review records available to confirm that they did the work they claimed, said the report, which was based on a whistle-blower complaint in 2009.

The conduct constituted "improper inexcusable neglect of duty, overpayment for overtime, testing data falsification, and misappropriation of state property," Howle wrote in a letter to Gov. Jerry Brown.

Projects for which testing data was falsified included the La Sierra Avenue bridge in Riverside, a retaining wall at Braddock Drive on Interstate 5 in Los Angeles and the Benicia-Martinez bridge along Interstate 680, the report said.

The false claims for work, including vouchers for differential pay on certain tests, meant the employees were overpaid by $13,788, Howle calculated. 

The California Department of Transportation, the office of the inspector general for the U.S. Department of Transportation, and the Federal Highway Administration initially determined that one of the technicians falsified concrete pile testing data on three transportation projects.

"A subsequent review by Caltrans identified eight additional incidents of data falsification," the report said. "The supervisor also misappropriated Caltrans property with assistance from the technicians and other subordinate employees." The employees took steel beams to build a gate at the supervisor's private property in Susanville, the report said.

Initial allegations of the falsified testing were reported in the media in 2011 and legislators held hearings at which Caltrans officials promised they were making sure the structures are safe. ``Follow up tests were done and the projects are safe,'' said Will Shuck, a Caltrans spokesman, on Thursday.

The report does not identify any of the workers by name. Caltrans fired the supervisor, while the technician involved in falsifying tests appealed disciplinary action and a settlement was reached in which the employee was allowed to retire rather than be dismissed, the report said.

The other technician, who only filed false overtime claims, received a 10-day suspension, it said.

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patrick.mcgreevy@latimes.com


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