Joe Nelson, Staff Writer
Posted: 07/19/2012 07:17:19 PM PDT
SAN BERNARDINO – A criminal investigation into allegations of kickbacks and placing falsified bids on publicly funded construction projects at the city Parks and Recreation Department is under way.
Robert Lennox, the former deputy director of the department, and Chris Evans, hired by the city as construction manager for various parks and recreation projects, have been named in a search-warrant affidavit filed in San Bernardino Superior Court on June 27.
The investigation dates back to at least January, when police detectives began looking into suspected bid rigging in connection with the construction of the Verdemont Recreation Facility and a ceiling tile replacement project at the Hernandez Community Center, according to the affidavit.
Lt. Paul Williams, spokesman for the Police Department, said Thursday he was not authorized to disclose any information on the case or the status of the investigation.
In his affidavit, Detective Frank Alvarez, who works in the Police Department’s economic crimes detail, said there appeared to be “some sort of bid fixing taking place with construction jobs within the city, more specifically, on projects which involved Lennox and Evans.”
“It is also possible that Lennox, Evans and possibly other contractors involved may have received some sort of monetary kickbacks as part of this activity,” Alvarez wrote.
Investigators retrieved multiple emails from Lennox’s computer at City Hall, which Alvarez believed may contain evidence of bid fixing and grand theft, according to the affidavit.
Reached by telephone, Lennox denied any knowledge of or participation in any wrongdoing while employed by San Bernardino.
“I can’t speak for Chris Evans,” Lennox said, “but I did not have any knowledge of any kickbacks or bid rigging that were occurring.”
Lennox, who now is Yucaipa’s parks and recreation director, said detectives questioned him three times but never accused him of anything.
Evans could not be reached for comment.
It is unclear if the probe is part of a broader multi-agency investigation into suspected criminal activity at City Hall. The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department went public with the investigation last week after city officials, faced with a $45million budget deficit and the possibility the city will not be able to make its August payroll, announced it plans to file for Chapter 9 bankruptcy protection.
The Sheriff’s Department, Police Department and District Attorney’s Office are all investigating the allegations, which authorities are keeping close to the vest.
On Wednesday, officials from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development said the agency began auditing the city’s use of federal grant dollars on July 9.
Alvarez wrote in his two-page sworn statement that on Jan. 18 he and two other investigators met with Parks and Recreation Director Kevin Hawkins to discuss the allegations.
They learned, the detective wrote, that Murrieta-based Great West Interiors Inc. landed a contract in 2010 to replace ceiling tiles at the Hernandez Community Center at a budgeted cost of $21,320.
When the work was determined to be substandard, calls to Great West Interiors were not returned. Mark Raab, the city’s principal civil engineer, then contacted the owners of the other two companies that supposedly bid on the project, NBI Contractors and D-Side Construction. They told Raab they had never bid on the project, according to the affidavit.
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