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Article updated: 3/28/2013 5:35 PM

Tollway watchdog digs up scams, employee misdeeds

By Marni Pyke

Recent shenanigans by now ex-tollway workers or contract employees included a supervisor who bullied underlings when he was not sleeping on the job and a call center attendant who offered to make I-PASS fines disappear for a price, Inspector General Jim Wagner announced Thursday.

Wagner's semiannual report covers October through March and includes several cases of employees resigning or being disciplined or fired.

Among the findings was a former maintenance supervisor who had twice been fired and rehired in 2002 and 2005 following arbitration for infractions such as head-butting a colleague and positive drug tests. The latest complaints involved dozing off at work and haranguing staff members. "There was intimidation, abusive and condescending behavior," Wagner said, following an Illinois State Toll Highway Authority meeting.

The supervisor was dismissed in February. He had been rehired under a previous administration.

Another case involved a worker employed by the tollway contractor that operates the I-PASS call center. The employee offered to dismiss or reduce fines for customers calling about violations in exchange for cash. He set up several off-site meetings with customers and collected more than $4,000, Wagner said. The worker was fired by the contractor and the case has been referred to DuPage County prosecutors. Charges are pending. Tollway Executive Director Kristi Lafleur noted that the call center operations are being switched over to a nonprofit group.

Wagner also reported on some minor infractions in 2012 involving a subcontractor that pointed to larger concerns about consulting firms that are paid to help supervise the tollway's latest construction program. A small company hired to do concrete work as part of a mandated requirement to assist minority firms was discovered to be renting equipment from another business without the proper approvals.

It took an anonymous call to alert tollway officials about the infraction although the agency was using both Ty Lin International and AMEC Environment and Infrastructure as construction managers for the project. Wagner recommended additional oversight of and accountability for visitors to construction sites.

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