ODOT Whistleblower may have his day in court

By Lucy Brackett,

KATU TV aired a show earlier this month about a Bend man once employed by ODOT who called upon his project managers to comply with highway and bridge construction specifications. Ray Perry’s job? Assistant quality assurance coordinator for ODOT. Perry covered area four, which runs from the CA border to Washington state’s border, and runs west from Burns to the the top of the Cascades.

Starting ten years ago, Perry relayed to his bosses that the construction processes were not in compliance with contract specifications. This step was part of Perry’s job, but the project manager just ignored it. For the last four years, Perry has been slogging through the court system as he has been attempting to get federal attention to the problem, but that has resulted in nothing but inaction by ODOT. And now his job is gone as of this spring.
Perry recently filed a TORT for civil action against the state. He is waiting for a response from ODOT’s lawyers. Currently, politicians from around the state are looking into the matter, and it appears that ODOT just wants the whole matter to go away.

It would be interesting to get Perry’s input on Deschutes County roads and other roads throughout Oregon, in light of the fact that he had been with ODOT for twenty-five years at the time of his firing. Wouldn’t it be insightful to get his take on the multi-million dollar Bend Parkway and its condition after less than ten years of use? That’s a report that many commuters would like to see on this heavily traveled state highway; a road that seems to be always in need of repairs.

For those of you who are interested in the state of Oregon’s bridges and highways, stay tuned to this site. Questions and comments are encouraged and appreciated.

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Posted by at 05:30 | Posted in Measure 37 | 15 Comments |Email This Post Email This Post |Print This Post Print This Post
  • Alan

    Whistle blowers in government agencies are just as important as whistleblowers in big companies.

  • Carly

    I called Lars Larson several weeks ago regarding this very issue. His advice to me was to let the Governor know that the taxpayers are fed up with this kind of waste and incompetence that we are seeing played out here.

    I have contacted the Governor, the head of ODOT, the Secretary of State, and the Attorney General to inquire who ODOT is accountable to. I would encourage everyone out there who cares about the safety of the highways and bridges (and our tax dollars) to write a brief e-mail to each of these agencies and demand to know the truth.

    [email protected] (Governor)
    [email protected] (Attorney General)
    [email protected] (Secretary of State)
    [email protected] (Head of ODOT)

    The story that aired clearly showed documentation that represents failing materials which are used in the highest bridge in Oregon.

    This is not OK, and should make all of us angry! Hey Lars, help us get the word out to the taxpayers!

    • Mary G

      But isn’t the Governor still “one of them”? Wouldn’t he be more apt to protect the ODOT agency?

    • Val

      I’ve been reading the blogs from The Source Weekly, the Bend paper that originally broke the story about Ray Perry. The ones about the unethical hirings particularly got my attention as I too have been passed over because I was not “the right religion”. I used to live in Utah where obviously there are quite a lot of Mormons. But so many times I saw very UNqualified people hired and/or promoted by our Mormon boss. Was it “just a coincidence” that these people were also Mormons? I find it very hard to believe that the concentration of Mormons in Oregon is so high that the odds of a Mormon boss hiring a Mormon employee are just a fluke.

  • Alan

    Well who is ODOT accountable to? GAO? The governor?

    • Gaffer

      Alan, ODOT is accoutable to the TAXPAYERS. That means you and me AND the people who work for ODOT. Remember, they are taxpayers too. Imagine how they must feel, seeing shoddy materials and workmanship being approved by managers who are more concerned with what looks good on paper rather than what goes into a road. I know many of these hard-working guys. Many of them will probably die long before their time from stress; not (just) stress from the kind of work they do, but stress from knowing they better keep their mouth shut OR ELSE.

      And to Jerry #5, these “whistleblowers” you say are going to ruin ODOT are the only people with the guts to stand up and tell us what is really happening, and they’re being punished for it. (Is this America or Communist China??) Tell me, Jerry, are you saying you would rather NOT know the truth, ugly though it might be? Are you saying it’s OK for tax dollars to be squandered and motorists endangered just so long as you don’t have to hear the unpleasant details? For godsake, WAKE UP!

      It’s easy to talk about the bravery of soldiers in Iraq keeping us safe from terrorism (another gross political lie) in a war thousands of miles away. We call them “heroes.” But when it comes to a “war” in our own backyard, a war in which we actually have a personal stake and in which WE might have to get involved, that’s a different matter. Suddenly we don’t want to hear nasty facts about crooked, incompetant ODOT managers and failing materials. It’s so much easier to pretend everything is going just swell and our tax money is being spent wisely by the most highly qualified professionals. I repeat, WAKE UP!

      One last point: ODOT itself does not “make roads.” The vast majority of this work is performed by PRIVATE SECTOR agencies. These agencies have only one goal in mind–PROFITS! A decade or so ago, surveying, designing, materials testing and inspection were all performed by actual ODOT personnel. These folks had a vested interest in turning out top quality work because the roads and bridges being built were in THEIR OWN HOME TOWNS. But then the legislators and upper ODOT managers decided (erroneously) they could save taxpayer dollars by sending this work out to consultants who, again being PRIVATE SECTOR agencies, cared only about PROFITS!

      And THAT, dear Jerry, is what ultimately “ruined” ODOT.

  • pk2

    Not too fast. Let us remember that nothing has been proven yet. Just because someone says fraud has been committed does not make it so. Innocent until proven guilty. Patience.

    • ARA

      You seem to think ODOT is looking out for our best interest. You want to give them “time” to look into this unfortunate situatuion. Let me tell you about another little issue ODOT dealt with in 2006. It involved an employee receiving a FREE 600′ PAVED DRIVEWAY at our-the taxpayer’s expense. I called to obtain a bid for this little perk, and was quoted almost $14,000. Yet this employee claimed that the contractor had extra mix at the end of the day that they needed to get rid of! Apparently they needed to work their crew and equipment a bit longer for the day also, as they had to have a crew lay this asphalt, and a paver and rollers to finish it. We’re talking approx. 6 belly dump loads of asphalt. No plant operator would EVER overrun that amount of asphalt, and if they did, they would not have a job the next day. And aside from this, it was asphalt owned by the taxpayers, from a State source. At the end of the day, if there is excess mix, it is used to pave the road approaches, and mail box turnouts, among other uses that are valid. There were 200 such areas on this particular project! Even if there was excess materials, ODOT employees are prohibited from accepting ANY gift or gratutity over $25! This employee claims he was just doing the contractor a “favor” by helping him rid himslef of all of this expensive asphlt. And how did ODOT handle this?
      You never heard about this theft in the media, becasue ODOT’s PR people did their job well. They kept it away from us taxpayers. Yes, this was a criminal case. You can reference this in Crook County, to verify that this did in fact happen. And what about the status of the employee? He is still at ODOT, in the very same position he was when he broke ODOT policies, even though ODOT reported in the public documentation that he had been demoted! How can ODOT justify this, while firing an employee who has had no charges brought up against him? There are hard working ODOT employees out there. It must be terrible to have to work under these erratic conditions.

      • Gaffer

        “Brother” you speak the truth! I know a case where a contractor paved a FAMILY MEMBER’S driveway with leftover mix bought with taxpayer’s money. It was reported to the ODOT project manager but nothing was ever done. Why? As they say “paperwork is a bitch.” It’s a hell of alot easier to ignore this stuff than fight it.

        Remember too, ODOT “managers” are not “professional” managers. They get sent to a few “training seminars” every year (recently at Jot’s Resort on the coast–at taxpayer’s expense!) but as the saying goes “you can put puppies in the oven but that don’t make ’em biscuits.” ODOT managers get to be “managers” by playing the “yes man” game. DON’T GET ME WRONG–some are damn fine people, very smart and capable, but even these guys are under extreme pressure from above to keep their “books” looking good for public inspection. The worst managers are the ones who knowingly ignore problems, or deliberately falsify records, timesheets, etc. to make it “appear” their projects are on time and under budget.

  • Jerry

    How can they possibly find time to comply materials requirements? They are so busy making new highways. ODOT needs to be left alone to do what it does best. These whistle blowers are going to ruin everything.

  • Courtroom Observer

    During Mr. Perry’s Worker’s Comp hearing, documents WERE brought forward that appeared to be fraudulent, and went unchallenged by ODOT’s experts. It was shown by correlating with the test procedure that someone within ODOT had come up with numbers that were impossible to acquire in the proper manner. Again, ODOT’s experts could not challenge or refute this. Full speed ahead!

  • Aussie

    Jerry asks, “How can they possibly find time to comply materials requirements?”

    HOW can they not make the materials comply with the requirements? Have you driven on the Bend Parkway? I have daily for the last 5 years and what a piece of **** that road is. The public has been fed all the hogwash about studded tires ruining the roads. Well let’s see some proof!

    What ODOT seems to do best is not building roads but spinning tales. Peter (Murphy) Pothole has a tremendous job ahead to hide all the dirt on ODOT. Better get shoveling!

  • Bob

    Clearly there are troubles within ODOT. When an employee of 25 years is forced to take issues outside of the agency in order to get someone to listen to his concerns which affect our tax dollars, and more importantly, our safety, there are truly troubles among management. Management’s answer to the concerns was to fire this employee. I guess if you are trying to do the “right thing”, management is not interested. Fight on Ray Perry. We applaud you for your integrity and honesty.

  • Bo

    Good point Bob

  • Deanne

    Awhile back I heard that the legislators gave all the ODOT managers a 25% RAISE while the employees only got a 2% cost of living bump. Can anyone confirm, IS THIS TRUE??? The Oregonian is running articles calling for a cap or reduction on public employees’ benefits. What about these so-called managers and that WHOPPING RAISE? Are they going to see a reduction???

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