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November 9, 2011

New departure at SHA follows critical audit

The top procurement official at the State Highway Administration has left the agency just five months after the release of a harshly critical legislative audit of the agency that criticized the agency's performance in the awarding of contracts.

The SHA announced the departure of Robert P. Gay, director of the SHA's Office of Procurement, in an email to staff Monday. Gay, a state employee since 1975, earned $92,950 a year.  SHA officials, saying they are restricted from commenting on personnel matters under state law, gave no explanation.  

But Gay, reached at his home in Harford County, confirmed his departure. He did not give details of the reasons he left but said "it's in line with all the audit stuff."

The wording of the announcement by Deputy Administrator Cheryl R. B. Hill was terse, giving no indication that the departure was a retirement. Here is the email:

This e-mail is to advise you that, as of today, Robert (Bob) P. Gay is no longer at SHA. Any procurement-related issues previously handled by Bob should be forwarded to Norie Calvert. Norie is serving as Acting Director of the Office of Procurement and Contracts until recruitment is completed and the position is filled. Small procurements will continue to be handled by Carole Zentz who reports to the Director of the Office of Procurement and Contracts. 

SHA's procurement operation is one of the areas that came under scrutiny in the same audit whose release immediately followed the announcement of former Administrator Neil J. Pedersen's unexpected departure as of June 30. Legislative auditors found evidence of a revolving door in which former SHA officials were routinely hired by agency contractors -- and in one case became involved in a procurement he had previously worked on at the agency.

Acting SHA Administrator Darrell Mobley indicated in August that further changes were coming. On Wednesday he declined to answer any questions about the circumstances of  Gay's departure. Nor would he comment on whether the agency had seen a draft of an expected second audit of the agency.

Gay said he will remain on administrative leave until Nov. 21 and is "weighing my options" and "glad to be out of there." He did not elaborate.

Anyone with information about happenings at SHA is invited to contact Getting There at Michael.dresser@baltsun.com

 

 

Posted by Michael Dresser at 11:56 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: On the roads
        

Comments

This is disgusting. Good people are being sacrificed, a good agency is being ripped apart, and reputable firms are being smeared all because a bunch of auditors look at papers and make conclusions that well may be invalid, and because no one in State government has the brass to stand up and say that this is wrong. Just because B follows A does not mean that A caused B. But that's what these auditors are concluding. Just because somebody signed some plans or letters as part of his job doesn't mean he worked on the project. And the use of the term "revolving door" by the auditors is defamation, plain and simple. A "revolving door" occurs in these circumstances when someone works for Consultant A, leaves and joins SHA, works for a period at SHA, then leaves and rejoins Consultant A or joins Consultant B. That's not what occurs. People join SHA and work there until they retire, and then some of them join a consultant engineering firm, to whom they are valuable because of their knowledge of how SHA works and their contacts with SHA personnel with whom they formerly worked. Why is this OK politicians to do, but it's not OK for people like the staff personnel at SHA?

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About Michael Dresser
Michael Dresser has been an editor, reporter and columnist with The Sun longer than Baltimore's had a subway. He's covered retailing, telecommunications, state politics and wine. Since 2004, he's been The Sun's transportation writer. He lives in Ellicott City with his wife and travel companion, Cindy.

His Getting There column appears on Mondays. Mike's blog will be a forum for all who are interested in highways, transit and other transportation issues affecting Baltimore, Maryland and the region.
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