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Stumbo: Prosecutors Still Looking Into Allegations By Beverage

FRANKFORT, Ky. (AP) - Prosecutors are continuing to look into allegations of impropriety raised by a former state transportation official in Gov. Ernie Fletcher's administration, Attorney General Greg Stumbo said.

Speaking to reporters Tuesday, Stumbo said his office had also received a transcript of an interview with former state Highway Engineer Sam Beverage, who recently avoided a felony perjury trial by pleading guilty to official misconduct.

"We are still trying to ascertain what, if any, laws may have been broken," Stumbo told reporters.

Stumbo said his office was reviewing Beverage's comments and had received additional information from the Executive Branch Ethics Commission on Tuesday.

A story appearing in the Lexington Herald-Leader on Tuesday quoted Dave Disponett, a former unpaid adviser to Fletcher, as telling state Highway Commissioner Marc Williams to steer an engineering contract for a bridge to a company represented by Lexington lobbyist Scott Crosbie.

The statement was attributed in the story to a November 2006 Beverage deposition.

In his testimony, Beverage said he instructed staff members under his direction to funnel the contract for two Harrison County bridges to an engineering firm called DLZ after being ordered to do so by Williams.

Beverage said Williams told him he had been asked to help DLZ by Disponett, who had an office in the Capitol at the time, and Crosbie, a lobbyist for DLZ.

Other documents released Monday contend that Crosbie and at least two officials with DLZ met with Fletcher in his office after complaining to Disponett and others that they were not receiving contracts from the state. Crosbie described the gathering as an "introduction meeting," according to a summary of an interview with Crosbie released by the ethics commission.

Crosbie said he never asked Disponett or Williams to "throw" state contracts to DLZ, according to the summary of his testimony. Crosbie repeated that claim in an interview Monday, the newspaper reported.

Disponett told Williams that DLZ "wanted the Harrison County, twin bridges contract," according to a summary of Disponett's testimony.

Disponett declined to be interviewed by the newspaper. Williams was traveling and unavailable for comment, said cabinet spokesman Doug Hogan. He has previously said he expects to be cleared of any charges.

Fletcher press secretary Jodi Whitaker said Monday the governor's office referred the matter to Kentucky State Police in June 2005, three months after members of a contract selection committee told the cabinet's Office of Inspector General that they had illegally favored DLZ at the request of their superiors. Despite the alleged favoritism, DLZ did not get the contract.

State Police Lt. Phil Crumpton said Monday night that his agency presented evidence regarding the case to Franklin County Attorney Rick Sparks some time ago. Sparks declined to prosecute, Crumpton said.

Beverage has since provided officials with new information regarding the case on at least two occasions, the latest of which was earlier this month, when he submitted to a taped interview with Franklin County Commonwealth's Attorney Larry Cleveland. The interview was a condition of a plea deal Beverage struck with Cleveland, who was prosecuting Beverage on a perjury charge for allegedly lying to a special grand jury investigating the hiring practices of Fletcher's administration.

Cleveland confirmed that Beverage spoke about the Harrison County bridges project and said he provided "credible" evidence regarding possible bid rigging in the Transportation Cabinet. The testimony was referred to Stumbo, who was reviewing the matter.

Meanwhile, Beverage submitted to an interview late last year with an investigator for the Executive Branch Ethics Commission. Beverage has since settled ethics charges related to the Harrison County bridges project and agreed to cooperate with an ongoing investigation of Williams' involvement.

The documents released Monday lay out the ethics commission's case against Williams, who is scheduled to appear before the commission in early August.

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Information from: Lexington Herald-Leader,
http://www.kentucky.com

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)


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