Corruption in Virginia Government

As Washington Post readers know, there has been extensive corruption in the District of Columbia government for many years.

But D.C. is a city of 700,000 people within a metro area of 6.1 million. So I’ve been surprised about the relative dearth of news articles on corruption in the suburbs, particularly the Virginia suburbs.

Is that because there is: a) less corruption in VA, b) less media interest in covering it, or c) fewer auditors in VA digging for it?

Where there is government spending, there is corruption. There is a lot of federal, state, and local government spending in VA, so I’ve wondered whether “c” might be the right answer.

Well, how about that—the Post just reported on major corruption in VDOT:

During a snowstorm two years ago, Virginia Department of Transportation official Anthony Willie decided he should book a hotel room in Northern Virginia for the night. After all, he was in charge of snowplowing for the Burke area of Fairfax County.

While he was there, he wanted to have some fun. So he tried to get contractors and a co-worker to send women up to his room, according to court documents.

… Willie, of Culpeper, was sentenced this year to seven years in prison, having pleaded guilty to public corruption charges. He is among seven people convicted in a sweeping investigation.

Willie and his deputy, Kenneth Adams of Fairfax, demanded bribes from snowplow drivers in exchange for work. For six years they picked up payoffs at Outback Steakhouse and McDonald’s restaurants in the Washington suburbs. Along the way they increased their demands: Contractors said they were threatened when they balked at paying more.

… All seven defendants said in court that the corruption at the Virginia Department of Transportation is endemic to the culture and more extensive than the scheme that put them behind bars.

“It is happening now, it will happen in the future,” contractor John Williamson said before being sentenced to three months in jail. “It is rampant, and it is part of the culture of the agency.”

Prosecutor Samantha Bateman acknowledged in court that “this is a more pervasive problem in the Virginia Department of Transportation than is known.”

…Their crimes came to light only because another snowplow contractor complained to FBI agents looking into yet more alleged corruption at the agency involving falsified vehicle registrations. It is unclear where that investigation stands, but when FBI agents came to search Rolando Pineda Moran’s home, he told them they were missing the big picture.

“You’re looking at the trees. There’s a big forest out there,” Moran told them,

Adams also was selling cocaine — including to his boss, who was videotaped snorting the drug in his office, according to court documents. In addition to a public corruption charge, Adams pleaded guilty to possession with intent to distribute cocaine.

Both agency officials took between $200,000 and $300,000 in bribes, court documents said.

Isn’t that interesting? Corruption is alleged to be “rampant” and “endemic” in a major Virginia government agency, and the corruption has been apparently going on for years.

These crimes came to light because of a tip to federal investigators, who were investigating another different crime in VDOT.

Where were state auditors and investigators? And why has VDOT corruption festered so long?

Virginia has an Office of State Inspector General, which is supposed to investigate fraud, waste, and corruption in state agencies and contractors. Was this office aware of the alleged VDOT corruption? The Office does not post its investigative reports, and the last VDOT performance review in 2015 does not mention the problems.

Also, why is the FBI so involved in state and local public corruption? Look at this long list of public corruption investigations. Are the Feds doing work that state governments should be doing? Is federal help making the states helpless in policing themselves?