So now we know. Sonia Morphew Pitt, the emerency manager for MnDOT, who didn’t have the good sense to come back to Minnesota (if for nothing else, the appearance of doing her job), was running a con on the state, according to documents released with her firing today.
Pitt took off for various places without getting approval, and then billed her vacation time as working time. And, it turns out, her trips to Washington (she was shuttling between there and Boston when the bridge fell), were visits to her apparent boyfriend, Daniel M. Ferezan, the Federal Highway Administration’s program manager for transportation security.
She had chutzpah. One of her deals was to turn a 3 day conference in Washington to a roundtrip from Washington to Las Vegas for five days, all on the taxpayer dime.
She got the state to pay for a cellphone — ostensibly because the state cellphone system had lousy reception whee she lived — than used it 90% of the time for personal calls, mostly to her guy friend.
There’s no indication at all Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau (also the commissioner of transportation) knew about the scam, but it reinforces the perception that hers is an agency running amok, especially given that there’s no indication that MnDOT ever requested or suggested that the agency’s emergency manager come back to Minnesota, when it first contacted her 30 minutes after the I-35W bridge dropped into the Mississippi, killing 13 people.
Although Pitt claims she was in “near constant telephone and e-mail communication with her staff” during the disaster, today’s report found that she spent more time on the phone with her friend in Washington.
In fact, she sent 22 emails the night of the collapse, 18 had nothing to do with the bridge. She sent only 10 the next day (2 of which had nothing to do with the bridge). She made 21 phone calls on the first day following the bridge collapse, 19 of them went to Mr. Ferezan.