BRIGHTON, CO - As Adams County, Colo.'s former Director of Public Works Leland Asay faces charges that he provided county equipment, materials, and workers to a contractor for use on contractor jobs, Government Fleet asked the county's current Public Works Director Besharah Najjar, P.E., what changes had been enacted to ensure that county equipment and vehicles are used only for authorized business.
In an e-mail response, Najjar wrote that the county is adopting new policies and creating educational training sessions to deal with the corruption allegations.
The County's Code of Ethics was amended in 2010, requiring staff to complete a computerized test every year to review ethical policies. According to Najjar, the education is an attempt to help employees know the difference between what official county business is and is not, in terms of using county vehicles. It helps confirm that employees understand what official county business looks like. "Most importantly, staff personnel learned that if they see violations to any county policies, they are encouraged to speak up without fear of retaliation," Najjar continued.
The revised policy also explicitly prohibits employees from using, requesting, or permitting use of county-owned equipment, services, materials, machinery, or property.
In addition, the county is working on refining its policies related to use of county equipment. Still in draft form, the policy states that equipment will not be used for personal use or while engaged in outside activity, that county decals are placed on equipment unless unmarked equipment is required, and that no employee can allow unauthorized persons to borrow, rent, or use county equipment.
These changes were enacted after the corruption investigation began in April 2008. Leland and other workers allegedly allowed county equipment and workers to be used for moving materials for the county's primary paving and resurfacing contractor even though the construction agreements stated the contractor would furnish all labor, machinery, equipment, materials, and supplies for the jobs, according to a county investigation.
Driver work schedules and interviews with drivers confirmed county vehicles were used to deliver asphalt to several of the contractor's jobs. Drivers also stated they did not know what the bid specified, but either thought the work would save the county money or just did as they were told by superiors.
In addition, a box paver was discovered to be missing for a year and came back damaged, needing parts and repairs. A fleet analyst looking to inventory equipment was told, "Don't worry about it."
While the case is ongoing, the county is working to improve its transparency and internal communication. "In terms of following the ethical code and policies, what I have emphasized, as a public works director, is that I have an open door policy and that there is no hierarchy for the staff to come and see me any time should they have a concern," Najjar wrote in an e-mail to GF. "In Public Works and at the monthly supervisors' and managers' meeting, the ethical policies and principles of good and transparent government are still being emphasized."
In addition to the fleet charges, county workers and contractor executives are alleged to have billed taxpayers for $1.8 million in work that was never done. The county employees are believed to have received personal benefits from the contractor, according to the Denver Post.
Read updated news about this case at the Denver Post.
By Thi Dao