UPDATE: Fraud, Corruption and Cronyism, Hallmarks of the CRC

by lewwaters

CRCOnce was the time corrupt officials at least tried to hide the corruption, graft, cronyism and conflicts of interests. Not any more, though. It is almost worn as a badge of conquering, blatantly engaging in it at all levels as if in open defiance of taxpayers.

Nowhere is this seen clearer than when looking at WSDOT, C-TRAN and the CRC. From efforts to bypass voters to impose tax and fee increases on us after we defeat them at the ballot box to silencing or ignoring citizens input they ask for, the air of corruption is so thick you could cut it with a knife.

Elected officials show nothing but total disregard for taxpayers still struggling to recover from 4 straight years of double digit unemployment with Clark County poised to easily reenter double digit numbers.

We now see blatant cronyism at play as newly elected governor Jay Inslee appointed Oregon Gov. Kitzhaber’s former top adviser on transportation and sustainability, Lynn Peterson who was also once Clackamas County Chairwoman strongly favoring the CRC, appointed as Washington Secretary of Transportation to replace retiring Paula Hammond.

Not one to waste time when it comes to pushing the CRC and other megaprojects around Washington State, we read of Peterson’s effort to create an air of accountability as she orders a review of megaprojects, including CRC.

On the surface this appears like a responsible move to make, given the lack of funding, struggling taxpayers and dwindling public support primarily where CRC is concerned. But scratch that surface and look a little closer and we find the cronyism and corruption we have seen just about everywhere CRC is concerned.

This “comprehensive program assessment” as she labels it will also look at two other highly controversial, bloated megaprojects in Washington State, the state Highway 520 bridge replacement and the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement, both heaped in controversy and cost overruns.

Ron Paananen of the engineering firm CH2M Hill Inc. has been selected to lead the review and is also where we see the first act of cronyism as he is also “a former WSDOT administrator who worked directly on both the Highway 520 and Alaskan Way Viaduct projects.”

CH2M Hill Inc has been “a paid consultant that has received money from the CRC” to the tune of $3,416,135 and is listed as a supporter of CRC on the Columbia River Crossing Coalition website.

So much for any air of independence or objectivity there.

But it doesn’t end there, not by a long shot.

Paananen is from the engineering firm CH2M Hill Inc. This is the same CH2M Hill Inc. who very recently agreed to pay $18.5 Million to resolve criminal and civil allegations pertaining to fraudulent overtime claims by workers that was condoned by management.

A March 7, 2013 Department of Justice News Release says in part,

“The Justice Department, in conjunction with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington, announced today that Colorado-based CH2M Hill Hanford Group Inc. (CHG) and its parent company, CH2M Hill Companies Ltd. (CH2M Hill) have agreed that CHG committed federal criminal violations, defrauding the public by engaging in years of widespread time card fraud. In order to resolve CHG’s civil and criminal liability, CH2M Hill has agreed to pay a total of $18.5 million, commit an additional $500,000 towards accountability systems, consent to a corporate monitor, and to continue actively cooperating with the ongoing fraud investigation.”

How is it that Lynn Peterson is unaware of this?

Or, is she fully aware of it and with no regard for taxpayers, wishes to help out a friend hit with a big fine because of their own criminal acts?

How can this be the best use of our scant tax dollars? Engaging a company to lead a review that just a week ago admitted to criminal acts associated with previous work here in Washington State?

Have Democrats forgotten all of their cries against Halliburton just a decade ago?

We must not let this stand. While I fully expect Democrats to condone this sort of action, since they have led the way in blatant cronyism, corruption and fraud associated with this project, this post will be sent to other legislators with hopes someone will call for an full investigation of CRC after bringing it to a screeching halt with prosecutions and prison time for any determined to deserve it.

It is time, enough is enough!

UPDATE: Senate transportation co-chair raises questions about WSDOT pick for mega-project review leader‏ Press Release

16 Comments to “UPDATE: Fraud, Corruption and Cronyism, Hallmarks of the CRC”

  1. She is doing this because of the questions that were never answered at the last oversight hearings in 2012 asked for by Ann Rivers as well as those that were responded to with facts that burned the project. If she can tweek the data maybe she can do a little bit better job on the coverup eh?

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  2. She can try to cover it, but the rotten stench has already seeped out.

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  3. I hope that it is not so much a partisan thing, but that both sides of the aisle realize that this is non partisan! We have not money to waste, you can’t stick it to the folks with Tolls, contruction, and force the WRONG solution down our throats. Thanks to Lew for helping everyone see the light!

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  4. It shouldn’t be a partisan issue, Aj, but I’m afraid it was made into one long ago.

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  5. Lew, I knew I could count on you to have an excellent write up that spells out exactly what we’ve been seeing for far too long. I certainly hope our collective effort of members of the community of Southwest Washington as well as some from the Portland community, in demanding fair justice by the powers that be pay off soon! As you said, enough is enough and the people are not just talking…we’re shouting and they’ve covered their ears, and their eyes for too long. It’s becoming too easy to find their trip ups…yet they’re still getting away with ripping the people off.

    You know, in a recent discussion on what I call the basement forum of the Columbian, it was said that only people over 60 are against the project and that we’re holding back progress. Well maybe some of the people are over 60, but those of us who are standing up against this mega-migraine of a project have been fighting this since our 30’s and 40’s. I”m all for improvements of our highway system and always have been (excluding out-of-state transit entities who stand to make a profit or at least gain accessibility to more federal grants at our expense), but when it comes to what we’re witnessing with this project and all parties involved, corruption and as you stated, cronyism muddies the water and the powers that be lose our support. Can’t they see that??? Yeah…enough is definitely enough. All parties involved in the planning process need to be investigated.

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  6. Too bad the Columbian chooses to ignore this. That newspaper could be of real value and great benefit to Clark County if they would quit playing politics and do some honest journalism. I’d say show Brancaccio the door, but he isn’t the real problem – only symptomatic of it. The problem is with the owners of the paper.

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  7. Kind of funny the Columbian does not find any relevance with the fine assessed CH2M Hill since they published an account of it on March 6, 2013

    http://www.columbian.com/news/2013/mar/06/contractor-to-pay-185-million-hanford/

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  8. Does that surprise you, Lew?

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  9. Just received in email:

    For Immediate Release: For Interview Contact:
    March 15, 2013 Sen. Curtis King (360) 786-7626

    Senate transportation co-chair raises questions about WSDOT pick for mega-project review leader

    OLYMPIA…Sen. Curtis King, R-Yakima, and co-chair of the Senate Transportation Committee, today expressed his concern about the state Department of Transportation’s choice of a former WSDOT administrator and project director to review three of the state’s transportation mega-projects. Newly-appointed Transportation Secretary Lynn Peterson announced Thursday that Ron Paananen, now a private consultant, will lead a comprehensive assessment of the Alaskan Way Viaduct Replacement, the State Route 520 Bridge Replacement and HOV Program, and the Interstate 5 Columbia River Crossing projects.

    “I have no doubt that Mr. Paananen is technically qualified to lead the review of these three, multibillion-dollar projects; that’s not the issue here,” King said. “What troubles me is the fact that Mr. Paananen was a former administrator on two of these projects and his private employer receives millions in consulting fees from DOT, including current payouts of $2.4 million on the Columbia River Crossing – one of the projects to be reviewed. This is obviously an enormous conflict of interest.”

    Paananen left WSDOT in October 2011 to join CH2M Hill, a private design, design-build, operations, and program-management consulting firm. He was formerly the Alaskan Way Viaduct program manager and has worked on the SR 520 bridge replacement project.

    “The governor has made statements to the effect that he wants to bring ‘disruptive change’ to the Washington State Department of Transportation,” King noted, “but I don’t see how this changes anything. The fact is that we are potentially out millions of dollars due to serious mistakes made with the 520 bridge project and I don’t think hiring a consultant who has been part of these troubled projects to provide an ‘independent’ assessment is the right solution. DOT needs to bring in a truly independent analyst to not only impartially identify where improvements can be made but also instill a modicum of trust among taxpayers that the state transportation department isn’t wasting their money. I just don’t see how DOT can expect to receive an impartial review based upon Mr. Paananen’s involvement in these projects.”

    King isn’t alone in questioning Peterson’s choice of Paananen to review the projects. Several other lawmakers have also voiced their concern over the perceived conflict of interest and have called for the transportation secretary to make another choice.

    —30—

    For more information contact Erich R. Ebel at (360) 786-7395 or erich.ebel@leg.wa.gov. View online at http://curtisking.src.wastateleg.org/?p=5826.

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  10. Wow…great minds thinking alike (voters AND politicians)!!! Glad it’s gone to a higher level!!!

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  11. when I read cronyism and corruption I thought this was a story about one of 2 things. either Clark county or local 4 ilwu

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  12. Are you saying that people over 60 are the only ones who have any brains, Goldie?

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  13. Jack, you’re funny. I’ve got 5 years before hitting the big SIX-O!!! I’m speaking of the fact that someone on the government’s payroll has taken note the same information I’d enlightened Lew and Carolyn about in another discussion…someone else who was quick to notice the connect between the state transportation secretary, John Kitzhaber, Mr. Paananen and CH2M Hill as well as the ongoing criminal investigation against CH2M Hill.

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  14. The town hall meeting…much of the same old, same old. No new information…no discussion about CH2M Hill or Ms. Peterson. Just a bunch of cheerleading and raising hopes of the pro-CRC crowd, the well-placed union members (no offense to unions, just the annoyingly loud members who attended) whose deafening clapping that was totally irritating and a bit inappropriate…and the same misinformation and political grandstanding wedged in between facts in order to gain support of the project; even a few digs against those of us who see the wasted spending with this project for what it is and refuse to support light rail by the union leader. Talk about awkward moment!!!

    Then there was the politically-motivated photo shots for future advertisement. Can’t forget those!!!

    The pot that painted the kettle black was when Rep. Moeller announced photos in front of the banner in the back of the room. No banner was up…till a few members of the audience opened it up and presented “Washington for CRC.”

    GOD did this wreak of a one-sided event!!! Never felt so out of place in my life! Guess I’ll stick to writing the letters and giving my 2 cents worth as I have been doing!

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  15. Oh…one more thing…

    The speakers were all a bit unnerved because of the Republican-Majority Caucus in the Washington State Senate.

    They should be.

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  16. And Thank God and Thank Don Benton and Thank all those who worked there butts off to make sure he went back to Olympia for the people! Mostly thank his wife for putting up with a life filled with Hi Honey I’s still not home!

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