Legislative auditor to probe travels of MnDOT emergency manager
St. Paul, Minn. — (AP) - Legislative Auditor James Nobles said he would examine work and travel records for a state transportation emergency manager who didn't break off an out-of-state trip when the Interstate 35W bridge collapsed.
Sonia Kay Morphew Pitt is on leave while the transportation agency reviews her work schedule and travel. She was attending a Harvard University training for emergency managers when the bridge failed on Aug. 1, and didn't return to Minnesota until Aug. 11. Her trip included eight days in Washington.
Nobles said MnDOT failed to tell him about the situation, leaving him to hear about it on the radio.
"These things are supposed to be reported to me. It's a legal requirement," he said. "It was not done promptly."
He said his investigation may reach into MnDOT's procedures for overseeing expenses.
MnDOT spokeswoman Lucy Kender said the agency didn't follow protocol in informing Nobles about its internal investigation of Pitt. She said an agency auditor, Dan Kahnke, verbally told one of Nobles' staff members about two weeks ago.
A call by The Associated Press to Pitt's home number on Monday wasn't returned, and Kender said Pitt wasn't giving interviews.
One member of a legislative panel appointed to examine the bridge collapse said the revelations about Pitt raise questions about MnDOT's leadership.
"What were people thinking that they didn't bring her back?" said Sen. Kathy Saltzman, DFL-Woodbury. "It's almost incomprehensible. This was a catastrophe of historic proportions. What could have been more important in Washington?"
(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)