Officials: FBI Investigating Highway Construction Projects

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - An engineer with the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet says an FBI investigation of former Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration includes a review of how some highway construction projects were awarded.

Marcelyn Mathews, a Department of Highways engineer under both Fletcher and Gov. Steve Beshear, told The Courier-Journal she was questioned by the FBI about a month ago on whether the cabinet's confidential cost estimates for contracts were leaked to bidders before bids were submitted.

"They were asking if I gave it to somebody. And I didn't have it. I didn't," Mathews told the Louisville newspaper. "I never typically even look at them" until bids are opened.

Chuck Wolfe, a spokesman for the state Transportation Cabinet, told The Associated Press on Wednesday that the cabinet "is cooperating with a federal investigation into the previous administration," but declined to elaborate.

"I can't say anything beyond that," he said.

Transportation Secretary Joe Prather said Tuesday in a brief statement to The Courier-Journal that the FBI has sought "certain information" for its investigation into the previous administration, but declined to discuss details.

"We've been asked not to comment," he said. "I am willing to acknowledge that the investigation is ongoing, but beyond that we cannot appropriately comment."

David Beyer, spokesman for the FBI in Kentucky, says Justice Department policy prevents him from either confirming or denying an investigation.

Howard Mann, attorney for Fletcher's Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert, told the Lexington Herald-Leader he hadn't been contacted by investigators about any investigation.

Marc Williams, state highway commissioner under Fletcher, declined to say if he was aware of the investigation or whether the FBI had contacted him. He told the Louisville newspaper he was not aware of any estimates released inappropriately or prematurely.

Gilbert Newman, the current state highway engineer, said knowing the engineer's estimate before submitting a bid could be valuable if the bidder expected to have no competition for the contract.

In those cases, a bidder would know he could bid as high as 7 percent more than the engineer's estimate and still receive the contract, he said.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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