(Please note this is a previously written column that is being posted because a lead partner in design and oversight of the Big Dig has been given a $370 million contract by Massport which I consider and outrage for their performance on the Big Dig!)

November 25, 2008

1977, began the history of the so called Massachusetts Ward Commission chaired and named after a former president of Amherst College who led a citizen panel outraged at the public construction contract scandal that occurred with the building of the infamous Boston Government Center. Their report two years later caused the halls of the Massachusetts Statehouse to loudly shake and so called reforms took place in Massachusetts state government including the advent of the office of Inspector General.

Those construction reforms seem to have failed and been forgotten and a reverse in integrity and ethics has once again surfaced in Massachusetts with school construction, highway, consultant, and vendor repeated scandals being revealed almost weekly. And finally the scandals of Boston’s Central Artery almost $20 billion dollar failure no longer is being able to be covered up by both State and Federal Managers and elected legislators from both parties. US Attorneys, Attorney Generals, Inspector Generals and their colleagues all now are acting piecemeal toothless and ineffective despite warnings for decades by whistleblowers, some journalists, citizens, and a minor cadre of courageous officials. The time has come for a new Ward Commission to clean up the current mess.
State and Federal Taxpayers once again must be exasperated and disgusted at the latest Boston’s Central Artery Project-Big Dig tragedy that is pushing the media. When enough is is enough? No more cover-ups are needed. Time for the truth to least not repeat all the mistakes of the past even now when so much state and federal dollars has been wasted, shoddy construction, and a death that should have been avoided. Billions of Dollars have been wasted in Boston.

Outrageous for Massachusetts Senators Kennedy and Kerry who are now calling for better highway tunnel inspections and so called “Value Engineering”! In addition, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick is hinting at doing a cash settlement of $1billion to forgive Bechtel Corporation and potentially others to remove criminal liability! The recent settlement by the Boston US Attorney to settle for $50 million and relieve civil and criminal liability for faulty loads of Big Dig Concrete at this late date of the almost completed 20 year project is another further despicable outrage.

This incompetent damage control cover-up after the fact by those who should have been the watchdogs is a further nadir of disgrace of public trust oversight again fostered on State and National Taxpayers.

Senators Kennedy and Kerry advocating for enhanced tunnel inspections and for “Value Engineering” is a moral and ethical outrage. Value engineering calls for an additional set of engineers and others to be called in evaluating as to quality, cost, and need for major construction projects.

When there were outcries for Big Dig Oversight by those good intentioned citizen and government advocates documented precisely in 1994 and years before by the Massacusetts Inspector general, the Massachusetts House Post Audit and Oversight Committee for Value Engineering and accountability both Senator Kennedy and Kerry were unheard and were part of the enablers that did nothing.

Additionally, I cannot recall at anytime either Kennedy or Kerry leading any charge for accountability or oversight of the project when citizen and government advocates were pleading for assistance for expenditure and construction sanity on the project. Senator Kerry even made the impression that all was well and monies were there joining the Big Dig Bechtel Public relations Specialists to mute outcries for accountability.

The bottom line is Democratic Governor Michael Dukakis and his Secretary of Transportation Fred Salvucci and then highway commissioner Jane Garvey were the forefathers and birth mother laying the foundation for the Big Dig scheme that brought the “no bid, cost plus and little oversight of “ Bechtel with the many other contractors and consultants. Their legacy was continued and enhanced to an art form by the succeeding Republican Governors of Massachusetts, Weld, Cellucci, Swift, and Romney along with their minions of Peter Nessen, Jim Kerasiotis, James Carlin, and Charlie Baker.

The Massachusetts Legislature at almost every inch of the way has shown a lack of oversight and accountability fostered and responsible by the former long term Chairs of the Joint Committee on Transportation Robert Havern and Steven Karol. State Senator Mark Pacheco who heads the Senate Post Audit and Oversight Committee is now making pronunciations on the Big Dig! His so called landmark contract legislation of accountability and oversight called the Pacheco Bill of a decade and a half ago specifically exempts engineering and design from proper fiscal analysis that allowed the Big Dig calamity. Pacheco’s exemption paved the way with impunity for the failures of Bechtel and others to ply their runaway costs.

Boston CBS 4 reporter Jon Keller stated recently on a station’s talk show when asked why all the failures of the original $2.3 Billion contract now reaching $18-$20 Billion project was not reported by the media. Keller the former Boston Globe Editorial writer and columnist stated that both Editorial Boards of the Boston Newspapers (Globe and Boston Herald) were in the “tank”. He even outed a former Globe colleague David Warsh as a long time enabler. There are so many other names of journalists and media types that participated or turned a blind eye.

Next, we had the revolving door of Massachusetts State Attorney Generals L. Scxott Harshbarger and Tom Reilly. Massachusetts also had Democrat and Republican US Attorneys of Wayne Budd, Donald Stern, and Michael Sullivan who served Democratic and Republican Presidents as well as Congresses adding to the record of little or no pleas for oversight. Middlesex District Attorney Gerry Leone formerly top criminal prosecutor for the state Attorney General who went on to work for the US Attorney has a record of toothless probes on the Big Dig during his tenures.

The Federal Highway Administration and Federal Offices of Inspector General along with the politically appointed non career managers of the Massachusetts State Highway Department and toll road Turnpike Authority required little or no accountability of Federal, State tax dollars, and Toll Fees. Their inactions insured shoddy workmanship and cost escalations despite outcries from construction workers and government engineers. This resulted in diversion of needed State and Federal Tax dollars from other Massachusetts roads and bridges resulting in their serious current disrepair status.
I suggest those seeking the truth on the Big Dig look at the State House Post Audit and Oversight Committee and past reports on the Big Dig under former chairs Cerasoli, Kennedy, and especially the era of William Nagle and staff director Thomas Hammond to determine the facts against what Kennedy, Kerry and others after decades are trying to do to appear as crusaders. That legislative committee of integrity was the sole sanctuary to bring financial sanity and oversight to the project despite the Big Dig juggernaut of attacks. Their efforts were stopped when Representative James Fagan became chair and the departure of then crusading Staff Director Thomas Hammond.

Additionally, talk to the real heroes of good government that sounded the alarms who were dismissed, demeaned, intimidated, or called “gadflys” by the Big Dig propaganda machine. They include reporters Peter Howe, Tim Sandler,Wendell Woodman, John Coughlin, Charles Sennott, Joe bergantino Ron Gallobin, Jon Wells, David Kassel, John Vanscoyoc, John Strahinch, and Joe Bergantino to name a few to the list. Also, note people such as legislators, the late Fran Doris, Marie Parente, Bill Constantino, Tom Norton, William Keating, and Richard Moore, Warren Tolman, and Vincent Mannering. Even Speaker Dimasi when a rank and file legislator and Emmanuel Serra were also dismissed. Special mention should go to the late Jerry Williams, Fred Langone, Chris Ianella, Joe Baresi, Steve Cotton, Joe Dinucci as well as Howie Carr, Larry Overlan, K. Dunn Gifford, Auditor DeNucci, and Scott Amey of the Washington based whistleblower group Project on Government Oversight for all their time and efforts that went unheeded by Kennedy-Kerry and others.
The Kerry and Kennedy new attempts at revisionism and attempting to act like whistleblowers in seeking Highway Tunnel Inspections and so called “ Value engineering” is short of nothing too late. Both senators at this stage of their careers have the distinction of promoting with no oversight the largest and most costly flawed government construction project ever undertaken in the United States. Their continued repetitive actions of coverup is ensuring Boston’s Big Dig to be the largest international construction monument for waste, fraud, and abuse. Massachusetts new Governor Deval Patrick should not let all the enablers and the Big Dig guilty get Pardons and Freedoms for so called minor “Chump Change” that will allow again State and Federal Taxpayers and the infinity Toll Road Toll Payers to continue and be victimized.
Massachuestts needs a new WARD Commission to get needed reforms and be the model for the federal government to follow.

John Gatti Jr. is the architect of the Massachusetts Public Employee Whistleblower Law and one of the first to call for Oversight on Boston’s Central Artery Project. He writes and reports on Business, Labor, andGovernment Waste, Fraud, and Abuse.