Probe involves at least two publicly-funded projects and two former city employees
BY RICHARD BROOKS AND JEFF HORSEMAN
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Published: 13 July 2012 04:37 PM
For at least six months, San Bernardino police have been investigating evidence of possible bid-rigging involving publicly funded construction projects and at least two former city employees, court records show.
As far back as Jan. 18, Detective Frank A. Alvarez was asking questions about apparently falsified bids involving the Hernandez Community Center, and the inquiry, still active, was later broadened to include Verdemont Recreation Facility, Alvarez said in an affidavit in support of a search warrant.
At least initially, the probe targeted former Parks and Recreation Deputy Director Robert Lennox and former department construction manager Chris Evans, who Lennox had hired, the document says.
“It appears that there was some sort of ‘bid fixing’ taking place with construction jobs within the city, more specifically on projects which involved Lennox and Evans,” wrote Alvarez who has been assigned to the Police Department’s economic crimes detail for the past 11 years. “It is also possible that Lennox, Evans and possibly the contractors involved may have received some sort of monetary ‘kickbacks.’”
Reached Friday, Lennox, now the city of Yucaipa’s community services director, denied being involved in bid-rigging. He said he spoke with investigators and invited them to look through his financial records.
“I had no knowledge of any bid-fixing or inappropriate management of the contracts or the contractors,” Lennox said. “That’s not to say that something didn’t take place. If I didn’t know about it, I didn’t know about it.”
Evans could not be reached for comment. The affidavit said Evans used to own Evans Construction Management.
Dated April 26, the document speaks only of a police investigation. Late Thursday, the San Bernardino Sheriff’s Department announced its involvement in a multi-agency criminal investigation into San Bernardino city government.
On Friday, Sheriff Rod Hoops said he didn’t know details of his department’s investigation — including whether it involves bid-rigging — or when it might be concluded.
“I get bits and pieces in passing,” Hoops said. “I know we have three people assigned (full-time) to it.”
He emphasized, however, that he believes the probe is unrelated to allegations made this week by City Attorney Jim Penman of falsified financial documents, allegations made in the wake of the City Council’s decision Tuesday to file for bankruptcy. The city is facing a $45million deficit and may not have the money to make next month’s payroll.
Penman could not be reached for comment. Mayor Pat Morris said he was briefed generally on the problems at the Hernandez center but he could not comment further because he does not want to jeopardize the investigation.
The two-page sworn statement by the fraud detective suggests that the police probe started with substandard repairs to ceiling tiles at the Hernandez Community Center at 222 North Lugo Avenue. The city budgeted $21,320 for the work and gave the contract to Great Western Interiors.
The firm had satisfactorily completed other projects, but company officials didn’t return phone calls about the ceiling tile job, according to the affidavit. So calls were made to the two next-lowest bidders: NBI Contractors and D-Side Construction. But officials of both firms said they hadn’t bid on the project, Alvarez wrote.
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