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Engineer Tells FBI He Leaked "Secret" Bids To Road Contractor

LONDON, Ky. -- Road contractor Leonard Lawson paid $20,000 in cash to a state highway engineer who was helping leak confidential bid information on state contracts to Lawson, according to an FBI affidavit filed in federal court, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Saturday edition.

On about eight occasions during 2006 and 2007, engineer James Rummage was directed by Lawson or then-Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert to obtain the Transportation Cabinet's cost estimates for state contracts -- estimates that are to be kept secret until bids are opened, the affidavit states, reports veteran C-J Frankfort Bureau Chief Tom Loftus.

Investigators believe Lawson also made "illegal payments" to Nighbert using a business as a conduit, the affidavit states.

The affidavit was given by FBI Special Agent T. Clay Mason to obtain court approval of search warrants for two businesses that Mason said were believed to have records relating to payments made to Nighbert, reports the C-J, in its exclusive report.

The search warrants were approved, and on Monday agents searched offices of the company that allegedly made the payments, Utility Management Group of Pikeville, the affidavit said.

Also searched, it said, were the offices of a Corbin accounting firm, Marr, Miller & Myers.

Copies of the warrants, a list of the documents and computers seized and Mason's affidavit were obtained by The Courier-Journal from the U.S. District Court clerk's office in London.

Rummage, who retired from state government in March, is cooperating with investigators. And the affidavit says that before he retired he "conducted a number of consensual recordings with Lawson and others."

"Lawson told Rummage on one tape that 'they can't trace cash' and made overt offers to assist Rummage with finding and paying for an attorney," Mason's affidavit says. "He also encouraged Rummage to 'take the Fifth' at an upcoming Grand Jury session and to get an attorney they could work with," the C-J reports.

Lawson, of Lexington, has been a major road contractor and political contributor in Kentucky for more than 20 years. He and his family own interests in construction companies that do business in the central and south-central parts of the state, reports the Louisville Courier-Journal.

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