Acting State Inspector General Catherine Leahy Scott released four reports this week alleging malfeasances on the part of public employees. Here are the details on four separate investigations:
— Yesterday, she announced the arrest of a state Department of Transportation employee who is accused of stealing scrap metal from a DOT facility, selling it for cash and pocketing the money. Rocco Ranucci, 55, of Vestal, Broome County was arrested Thursday and charged with three counts of petty larceny and one county of official misconduct. If convicted, he could serve up to a year in jail.
Ranucci admitted to investigators that he sold the materials for personal gain. The alleged theft took place from May through July 2012. He was arraigned in Kirkwood Justice Court. Ranucci has been a full-time highway maintenance worker with the DOT in Binghamton since November 2008. His annual salary is $32,974.
— Also yesterday, Scott’s office said an investigation of a state Department of Transportation official who inspects highway paving work by contractors found that the employee hired one of the contractors to pave his driveway at a steep discount. Lax policy at the DOT allowed the transaction to take place, Scott said.
DOT Assistant Resident Engineer David Dingman of Jefferson County paid Barrett Paving Materials Inc. $1,518 to pave his driveway, less than the going rate of $2,000 to $3,000. The company was awarded more than $17 million in state contracts in 2011.
The inspector general recently received a complaint about the paving, which occurred in 2004. She found that DOT had no procedures for assessing the propriety of employees who hire DOT contractors or vendors for personal projects. Dingman disclosed the use of a contractor to his supervisor but provided limited information. Since no procedures were in place, “no meaningful supervisory review occurred.”
The DOT has agreed to amend its policy based on the inspector general’s report. It will ban the hiring of DOT contractors or vendors for personal business and require the commissioner to approve any contracts with individuals or businesses that have contracted with the agency in the past five years. Scott said she would submit the findings to the state Joint Commission on Public Ethics for review.
— On Thursday, the inspector general announced that a former Clinton County deputy clerk violated state Department of Motor Vehicle policy and the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act by accessing DMV records without authorization and for non-work-related purposes. Glenn Olds, the deputy clerk, accessed records at the request of then-state Parole Board member and former Assemblyman George “Chris” Ortloff, who was under investigation at the time for allegedly soliciting sex with underage girls, and County Clerk John Zurlo, who wanted contact information for constituents, Scott said.
Ortloff, who was convicted, is currently in federal prison at Fort Dix in New Jersey. His release date is listed as Jan. 1, 2010, according to the federal Bureau of Prisons website.
Zurlo wanted addresses and birth dates of constituents so he could send them birthday cards and made frequent requests, according to Olds. Zurlo was Olds’ supervisor. Zurlo admitted to the inspector general that he asked Olds to obtain the information. Other DMV employees accessed the database using Olds’ ID and passcode, according to the inspector general’s report.
Olds has resigned, so no disciplinary action again him is possible. Scott has recommended Clinton County officials review the conduct of DMV staff and that the state DMV conduct random audits of the agency. Scott said her office will provide information regarding violations of the federal Driver’s Privacy Protection Act to the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of New York.
— On Monday, Scott announced a state Health Department employee was arrested on four felony charges for allegedly forging a doctor’s note to get a handicapped parking space in Albany and for filing timecards that said he was working when he was not.
Travis Witt, 27, was charged with four felony counts of first-degree offering a false instrument for filing and one misdemeanor count of third-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument. The Malta, Saratoga County, resident could face up to four years in prison if convicted.
A Health Department information-technology employee since 2007, Witt’s current salary is $58,311.00.