Dover Bridge superintendent sentenced on charge - Bonner County Daily Bee: Local News

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Dover Bridge superintendent sentenced on charge

Harris accused of doctoring anchor bolts on piers

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Posted: Thursday, February 21, 2013 10:00 am

SANDPOINT — The lead superintendent on construction to replace the Dover Bridge on U.S. Highway 2 was sentenced to three years of probation for trying to conceal substandard work on the new span.

Judge B. Lynn Winmill sentenced Kip David Harris in U.S. District Court in Coeur d’Alene on Tuesday, according to U.S. Attorney Wendy Olson. Winmill also ordered Harris to pay a $750 fine.

Harris, a former Sletten Construction employee, was accused of directing laborers on the $22 million bridge replacement project to modify non-conforming anchor bolts so it would appear to inspectors that the bolts were in compliance.

Since the project was largely funded through the American Recovery & Reinvestment Act of 2009, investigators from the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Office of Inspector General and the FBI probed the allegations.

Harris was interviewed by agents in June 2011 and admitted that he directed workers to modify the bolts so they would pass inspection, according to court documents.

Harris, a 38-year-old from Boulder, Mont., was indicted last September on a charge of making a false statement regarding a federal-aid project. He pleaded guilty the following December.

Harris was advised by laborers that anchor bolts embedded in bridge pier caps were either improperly installed or had sunken after concrete was poured, court documents indicate. As a result, nuts would not fit on some of the bolts or would only partially engage them.

Harris did not install the anchor bolts, although court documents do not specify who did. Harris said he decided to conceal the substandard bolts until a proper solution could be determined.

Harris told investigators that he witnessed superintendents on two prior jobs encounter a similar problem, prompting them to attach small pieces of bolt to lengthen them.

Harris, court documents said, directed laborers to take short pieces of bolt and thread them through nuts. The assemblies were then attached to anchor bolts embedded in piers and abutments using J-B Weld, an epoxy adhesive. Laborers were further counseled by Harris to paint the short bolt ends to conceal tool marks indicating they were cut.

An Office of Inspector General’s report indicates Harris was deeply conflicted about his actions.

Harris knocked some of the doctored bolts off with a hammer on one of the piers to reveal their insufficiency and began driving home. After driving about 60 miles, Harris doubled back to the project site and tack welded the doctored bolts back on, but realized they still did not look right.

Harris did not tell his superiors or the Idaho Transportation Department because of the project’s momentum.

“Harris said there was a lot of pressure to get the job done on time and ahead of schedule and to not lose money,” Special Agent Colby Britton said in his report.

As many as 28 bolts on the project were doctored.

Harris’s misconduct amounted to a felony offense that’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

The inspector general’s report indicated that Harris’ attempted cover-up created no serious safety issues.

Harris’s defense counsel, Jim Siebe, argued against incarceration because his client has already suffered consequences and refuses to blame anyone else for his misconduct. Harris works for an unspecified highway district at substantially reduced pay, can no longer hunt and is forbidden from being involved in federally-funded projects.

“Consequently, he has suffered immeasurable humiliation and economic harm,” Siebe said in a sentencing memo.

A condition of Harris’s probation requires him to conduct presentations at a local middle school and a high school to describe the circumstances of his case, his lapse in judgment and the consequences of his actions.

A message seeking comment from ITD was not returned on Wednesday.

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  • L Wallace posted at 7:43 pm on Wed, Feb 27, 2013.

    L Wallace Posts: 1368

    Buck Sally, they replaced the bolts before the project could move forward. HWIS, as I understand it the bolts (some, not all) were the hold down bolts into the concrete under the big I beams. Likely if the bolt stubs would have stuck up thru the I beam base the weight of the bridge and beams would have held the bridge down and the bolt stubs without nuts would have kept bridge beams from sliding around.

    However, the contract called for certain specs, the contractors and sub contractors were getting well paid to meet the contract specs they bid on.

    Too bad the government did not do their inspection job of foreign drilling rigs in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. Too bad the government did not do their oversight of economics of Wall Street and too big to fail corporations.

  • Here's What I Say posted at 9:09 am on Mon, Feb 25, 2013.

    Here's What I Say Posts: 1240

    It didn't effect the structural integrity of the bridge...if I read correctly.

  • Jason Smith posted at 9:43 pm on Fri, Feb 22, 2013.

    Jason Smith Posts: 67

    Is this the same bridge that was mentioned as one of the worst bridges in America? Showcasing Americas infrastructure a $22,000,000 job with a $750 fine?

  • Howzat posted at 8:50 am on Fri, Feb 22, 2013.

    Howzat Posts: 410

    oh, of course. Thank you, I never even thought of that, how logical.[wink]

  • wilson posted at 9:28 pm on Thu, Feb 21, 2013.

    wilson Posts: 1071

    This was an employee of a construction company. Highly unlikely he did it with the consent of the Contractor. A bad judgement call on his part.

  • captaindan posted at 8:22 pm on Thu, Feb 21, 2013.

    captaindan Posts: 821

    So another building contractor is caught doing shoddy workmanship and then lied about it. He gets 3 yrs. probation and $750 fine when he could have got 5 yrs in the pen and a $250,000. Let this be a lesson to anyone thinking of cutting corners on the next project up for bid. Just go for it, the worst that might happen is you get a slap on the hand and the best is you might get a bonus for finishing early. What happened to the deterrent effect of sending a firm message that it's going to get you in big trouble?

  • Corey Greve posted at 3:54 pm on Thu, Feb 21, 2013.

    Corey Greve Posts: 920

    "Harris’s misconduct amounted to a felony offense that’s punishable by up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine."

    He was convicted of a felony. Felons lose their right to hunt and to own firearms.

  • reddawn posted at 12:30 pm on Thu, Feb 21, 2013.

    reddawn Posts: 1707

    Wow, A Federal and state employee we pay for with our taxes are doing their job by protecting us with those private companies who take short cuts. Oh my, I am glad to see our State and Federal dollars are being spent to make sure private companies are up to code. And our Federal government who paided for our bridge like we need to do across this country, so we are safe. Glad to see our tax dollars at work.

  • Howzat posted at 11:22 am on Thu, Feb 21, 2013.

    Howzat Posts: 410

    "Harris works for an unspecified highway district at substantially reduced pay, can no longer hunt ". Usually a person loses their hunting privliges from a Fish&Game type violation- is there more to the story or is this a typical punishment?