State report alleges corruption in town highway department

A report from the Massachusetts inspector general finds possible corruption in the Westport Highway Department and that the improper actions go back several years.

“I was very shocked by it. I didn’t think it was on the scale that it was,” said Town Administrator Mike Coughlin.

Coughlin called in the state inspector general.

The report said the town’s surveyor, who heads the highway department, gave stone, cold patch, gravel and granite owned by the town to a private contractor for free.

The cost was at least $9,000 to taxpayers.

“To have thousands of dollars in fraudulent transactions is just inexcusable and intolerable,” Coughlin said.

NBC 10 News tried to contact the town’s surveyor, Jack Sisson, at his office and later at his home to get his side of the story.

A foreman at the highway department said Sisson was out on town business and unavailable.

NBC 10 News also tried to contact the contractor named in the report, Westport Excavating. The address listed with the state is a residential property in Westport, where no one answered the door.

The report also said town employees worked at the home of a former Westport selectman on taxpayer time. The crews used town equipment to work on the property for a total of 11 days.

“This culture of corruption within that department really has to stop,” Coughlin said.

NBC 10 News attempted to contract that former selectman, Liz Collins, at her home, but a family member told us she was unavailable.

In the report, Collins said she got the OK from town attorneys and filed a letter with the town clerk before the work began.

“No one recalls that she consulted with the town attorney,” an email from the town selectmen to NBC 10 said Wednesday.

The Board of Selectman will meet Monday night, when the administrator said he’ll formally ask the surveyor to go on leave.

The case also was referred to Bristol County district attorney’s office for possible criminal charges.

Article source: http://www2.turnto10.com/news/2011/jun/22/2/town-official-accused-giving-away-supplies-ar-556466/

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