Posts Tagged ‘Martinovich’

$280,000 NDOT Contract Put On Hold After Concerns Raised By Gov. Sandoval, Transportation Board Members

By Sean Whaley | 2:34 pm November 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A 23-month, $280,000 contract approved by the Nevada Department of Transportation for a private sector individual to work as a liaison between the agency and contractors seeking work has been put on hold because of concerns expressed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and other members of the NDOT Board of Directors.

The contract with William “Buzz” Harris to serve as an ombudsman between the agency and bidders on contracts was approved by the agency in September, but NDOT Director Susan Martinovich said it will be put on hold while concerns raised today at the board meeting are resolved.

The board was told the $280,000 is the amount that can be spent on the services provided by Harris from August through June 2013, but is not guaranteed. Harris, who was selected after a request for proposals was issued by the agency, would be paid $100 an hour under the contract, which would include most of his expenses.

Courtesy of NDOT.

But Sandoval, who serves as chairman of the NDOT Board of Directors, noted the potential contract cost is well in excess of what even he earns as governor.

Other members of the board also raised questions about the contract, including Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who said such positions are usually filled internally by an agency rather that bringing in someone from the outside.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, also a member of the board, asked for information about who submitted proposals for the contract.

“My understanding is historically and traditionally an ombudsman position is contained within the respective department, and that person would have an encyclopedic knowledge of the operation,” Sandoval said. “With an external ombudsman, that person will in turn have to get a hold of somebody who is within the office to perhaps respond to those questions.”

There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered in regard to the contract, including the cost, he said.

Harris is a former assistant executive director at the Nevada Associated General Contractors.

Assistant Transportation Director Richard Nelson, said the purpose of the contract is to provide a problem solver and facilitator for contractors seeking to do business with the agency. Harris has a good working knowledge of both the contracting business and NDOT, he said.

Reporting on the success of the program to NDOT is part of the contract as well, Nelson said.

“There is a lot of nuance to dealing with the department,” he said. “And a lot of times these new contractors don’t know what questions they should be asking. And we don’t want to see any contractor go under because they get balled up in the bureaucracy.”


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he has concerns with the nature of the contract in addition to the cost:

111411Sandoval :23 to those questions.”

Assistant Transportation Director Richard Nelson, said the purpose of the contract is to provide a problem solver and facilitator for contractors:

111411Nelson :18 should be asking.”



State Transportation Board Votes For More Oversight And Transparency Of Agency

By Sean Whaley | 4:54 pm July 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Members of the state Transportation Board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, voted today to extend their oversight of the activities of the Department of Transportation, a move that will require more frequent meetings and more timely review of contracts.

Gov. Brian Sandoval today supported more Transportation Board oversight of the Transportation Department. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

The seven-member board, which also includes Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, Controller Kim Wallin and three public members, now meets only quarterly and does not exercise authority over any contracts or agreements for services entered into by the agency.

Instead, department Director Susan Martinovich has been approving the items and reporting the actions to the board for information purposes only.

But Sandoval said today he believes more oversight is needed from the board to ensure the work of the agency is transparent to the public. While no one wants more meetings, Sandoval said the change is needed to ensure timely review by the board of contracts and agreements.

The five members of the board present for today’s meeting voted for the change, which will take effect in October.

From now on, all agreements over $300,000 for non-construction matters such as hiring consultants, entering into leases and selecting service providers, will come to the board for approval. All construction contracts over $5 million, which will represent about 80 percent of all contracts, will come to the board as well.

Board member Frank Martin said he has been concerned for the two years he has served on the board that there was not enough oversight on such matters, and he supported the change.

Sandoval said the change was necessary.

“I was concerned to see that there were a large volume, if not all contracts, that were basically provided to this board on an informational basis only,” he said. “And now this board will be considering the supermajority of contracts.

“The public will have the ability to review these contracts as well and have input,” Sandoval said.

As part of the new rules, the board then voted to approve 116 agreements entered into by the department with various firms and individuals between March 1 and May 31. In the future, the agreements will be approved on a timelier basis.

Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

The Department of Transportation is also providing access to the board meetings now via the internet.

“So it’s a new day,” Sandoval said. “And I’m very, very pleased and very optimistic, to use that word again, about the ability of the public to have access to how government works.”

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says most contracts will now be reviewed and approved by the Transportation Board:

071111Sandoval1 :18 supermajority of contracts.”

Sandoval says the public will have the chance to review the contracts as well:

071111Sandoval2 :13 on agenda items.”

Sandoval says it is a new day for transparency at NDOT:

071111Sandoval3 :16 how government works.”


Gov. Sandoval Directs Review Of State Agencies After Discovery Of Undisclosed Employee Settlements

By Sean Whaley | 4:26 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today asked for a statewide review of cash settlements with former state employees after Controller Kim Wallin uncovered three payments to former Department of Transportation workers that were not approved as required by state law.

One of the payments, to former NDOT employee Chris Sanseverino, totaled $150,000. The others were $22,500 paid to Brenda Hale and $10,000 paid to Dorothy Sewell. Reasons for the payments, authorized in 2010, have not yet been made public, but Sandoval was told the $150,000 payment was a settlement for three separate matters. Sanseverino also received a $25,000 settlement from NDOT in 2008.

The three payments were authorized by top officials with the Department of Transportation, but were never reviewed by the Nevada Transportation Board or the Nevada Board of Examiners.

The largest payment should have come to the Board of Examiners for review and approval because it exceeded a $75,000 threshold requiring action at a public meeting of the board.

“I want to be sure that this doesn’t happen again,” Sandoval said. “That absolutely under no circumstances would a settlement that exceeds that $75,000 threshold would not have a review process by the Board of Examiners.

Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he wants a comprehensive review of settlements with state employees/Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

“I’d like to suggest that (state Budget Director Andrew Clinger) review the entire state government to ensure that there are no other settlement account funds that exist out there so there aren’t resolutions of matters that are going on without the approval of the Board of Examiners,” he said.

While prior settlements may not require board action now, Sandoval said he wants a report on any such agreements made in past years by all state agencies.

Wallin said the failure to keep taxpayers apprised of such cash settlements is a reason why the state’s Division of Internal Audits should be under the control of her office. The internal audit function is now under the Department of Administration. A bill making its way through the Legislature would transfer the function to Wallin’s control.

“If you’ve got audit reporting directly to the governor’s office, it’s kind of like the fox guarding the hen house,” she said. “We need to have checks and balances.”

The Board of Examiners, made up of Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, was briefed on the NDOT contracts issue today. The board was told the payments were clearly not transparent.

A representative of the Transportation Department spoke briefly to the board on the issue, but NDOT Director Susan Martinovich was unable to attend the meeting.

Wallin also attended the meeting, and said another cash settlement of $12,000 has been identified by her office as being paid by the Nevada Division of Insurance to an employee in February of this year.

As a member of the Transportation Board of Directors, Wallin said she will ask Martinovich at the next meeting July 11 to provide information about all settlements entered into by the agency, including those with contractors.

“Besides going to the Board of Examiners and having strict procedures we also need to go and make sure that it is a clear and transparent process,” Wallin said.

Such employee settlements are not supposed to be confidential, but NDOT officials have said the agreements with the former employees are confidential, she said.

Masto, who also serves on the Transportation Board, said she will make a similar request of the agency.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto said today she will seek a full accounting of NDOT settlements with former employees/ Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

“One of the requests I will be making is that the department go through and pull all of those similar types of contracts that were entered into and bring those before the board so we are at least aware of how many are out there, what occurred, what dollar amount we are looking at,” she said.

Masto said her office will also be reviewing whether any such settlements can be ratified by the board after the fact.

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he does not want such employee settlements to bypass review again:

051011Sandoval1 :15 Board of Examiners.”

Sandoval says he wants a review of all state agencies for information on any such settlements:

051011Sandoval2 :19 Board of Examiners.”

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says she will ask the Transportation Department for a full accounting of such settlements:

051011Masto :22 have to investigate.”

State Controller Kim Wallin says such settlements must be fully disclosed to the public:

051011Wallin1 :19 agreements were confidential.”

Wallin says the internal audit agency should be under the control of her office:

051011Wallin2 :06 the hen house.”