9 On Your Side Continuing Coverage
Businesses implicated in city corruption: What do they have to say?
Reporter: Claire Doan
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) – For years, five workers ripped Tucson taxpayers off, doing side jobs while on the clock. But it wasn’t just street employees who pocketed money – Tucson businesses may have also scored.
The Office of the Attorney will not comment on this investigation, but criminal charges may soon come.
City officials released documents Thursday detailing the reasons why they sent termination letters to five employees in the Department of Transportation.
They are: Kurt Hough, administrator, who resigned in lieu of termination; Robert Palomarez, equipment operator specialist, who resigned in lieu of termination; Fred Gardillas, street maintenance supervisor, who retired in lieu of termination; Dan Carpenter, equipment operator specialist who was terminated; and Fernando Martinez, heavy equipment operator, who was terminated.
Nearly a year of investigative work with over 200 interviews culminated in the firings, with the misconduct adding up to over $100,000 in government manpower, resources and equipment.
“To have city resources being used for public benefit certainly makes their conduct especially bad,” said City Attorney Mike Rankin, who mentioned that the wrongdoing dates back to 2006 and occurred when city leaders had to make drastic budget cuts.
Documents show Hough ordered construction of a bike pad at Park and Ajo for his “motorcycle buddies,” costing taxpayers $7,883. Someone wanted a BMX bike track, so Hough ordered about 20 tons of dirt worth $600 to be hauled to a home, using city equipment. Potholes on private property? He directed crews to take care of that too.
One of the businesses implicated in the documents: Kelly Electric. Documents state: "The project included construction of a retaining wall and the grading and paving of the parking lot of Kelly Electric."
9 On Your Side paid a visit the office, but employees there said Ken Kelly was not available to talk. Documents show Kelly asked Hough for the favor regarding the BMX bike track.
“Nobody has the rights to profiteer on the backs of taxpayers but everybody is entitled to their due process,” said Councilman Steve Kozachik.
Another transaction: work on the parking lot south of Rosati’s. Scott Cummings owns that area, along with O’Malleys on Fourth. He declined an on-camera interview, but stated that he was not aware of any involvement in that project.
Although the city can’t go after business owners, Attorney Mike Rankin said it will try to get compensated for the stolen resources: “Yes, I would expect that the city ask for restitution as part of my criminal prosecution.”
City documents also show there is work done on the parking lot of the River Christian Fellowship Church, worth approximately $1,000. The pastor was not at the church, but documents show he told investigators the church had no money to pay.
The most expensive project costs $17,000 in city resources and manpower at Evergreen Cemetery. President Bill Addison told KGUN9 News workers fixed the roads because city workers stored equipment cemetery property – and it ruined the property there.
“By fixing our road, it just seemed like a logical extension of the fact that we allowed them to store their machines here,” Addison said.