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FBI Looks For Lawson - Pikeville Firm Connections

FRANKFORT, Ky. -- Federal investigators say they are trying to determine whether road contractor Leonard Lawson has an interest in a Pikeville company that made a $36,050 payment to former Transportation Cabinet Secretary Bill Nighbert, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal in its Sunday edition.

In a follow-up to his exclusive story, C-J Frankfort Bureau Chief Tom Loftus reports Utility Management Group, which is known as UMG, made the payment to a Nighbert business early this year, according to an affidavit by FBI Special Agent T. Clay Mason.

The Courier-Journal reported yesterday that, according to the affidavit, Nighbert or Lawson directed former state engineer James Rummage to obtain confidential cabinet cost estimates for road contracts in 2006 and 2007. Such estimates are supposed to be secret until sealed bids for the contracts are opened.

"Investigators believe UMG is the conduit for Lawson to reward Nighbert for his assistance while serving as KTC Secretary," Mason stated in the affidavit, which was obtained Friday from the U.S. District Court clerk's office in London, reports the C-J.

The affidavit, dated Aug. 1, was given to obtain court approval of search warrants for UMG and a Corbin accounting firm, Marr, Miller & Myers. The accounting firm's president, Archie Marr, is chief executive officer of UMG.

Federal agents seized documents and computers from UMG, which manages the Mountain Water District in Pike County, and the accounting firm during a search last Monday, reports the newspaper.

The affidavit says "business records, correspondence and documentation … may reveal that Leonard Lawson is the true owner or otherwise has control of UMG."

Attorneys for Nighbert and Lawson have said their clients did nothing wrong, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Ken Taylor has declined to comment.

Lawson's attorney, Larry Mackey of Indianapolis, declined to comment yesterday when asked if his client had any ties to UMG. Marr couldn't be reached for comment yesterday, reports The Louisville Courier-Journal.

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