State Auditor finds conflicts-of-interest in state transportation "Weigh in Motion" contracts
Last April, State Auditor Nicole Galloway's office launched an investigation into these potential conflicts of interest, after the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported the FBI was looking into the officials with HELP, Inc., a non-profit company that installs sensors and transponder technology that allows trucking companies to bypass the wait time of a full inspection at weigh stations.
Galloway says in her office's findings, three former state employees violated two conflict-of-interest laws.
"Supervisors cannot accept private employment that would influence the agency they just worked for. The second says that any employee cannot go work in private employment that would relate to decisions they made in a prior entity at the state," Galloway said.
According to the auditor's report, Drivewyze, a competitor to HELP, Inc. reached out to the state for a pilot program to provide a similar service. But Galloway says preferential treatment was given to HELP, Inc.
"These state employees were so invested in this one vendor that they actually traveled out of state to Minnesota on a conference with the explicit intent to champion this particular vendor at the expense of competitors," Galloway added.
Galloway on to say these former state employees also influenced and lobbied for HELP, Inc. in Texas, and Kansas.
MoDOT launched an internal investigation, and in an emailed statement says "we have discontinued our participation on the HELP, Inc. board and have stopped paying membership dues." MoDOT also says they have taken appropriate personnel action and identified training to current employees understand the responsibilities after they leave the agency.
The Highway Patrol says they have strong and comprehensive policies that address conflicts of interest and that they regularly train employees on those policies and that they cooperated fully with the audit.
"It's disappointing that it had to take our audit, and it had to take us asking very tough questions before this administration took this situation seriously," Galloway said.
Attorney General Josh Hawley said Thursday in a statement, "The Attorney General’s Public Corruption Team is actively investigating this matter. Civil servants who abuse their authority and fail to do what is in the best interest of Missouri citizens will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.”