Ex-MnDOT official misused state money, auditor says
ST. PAUL - The state's former transportation emergency management director - fired after she failed to return to Minnesota for 10 days after the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse - misused $26,000 in taxpayer funds over the past two years, an in...
ST. PAUL - The state's former transportation emergency management director - fired after she failed to return to Minnesota for 10 days after the Aug. 1 Minneapolis bridge collapse - misused $26,000 in taxpayer funds over the past two years, an independent audit found.
Legislative Auditor James Nobles reported today his office found that Sonia Morphew Pitt of Red Wing caused the state to incur more than $11,500 of "unauthorized, unreasonable, or inappropriate expenses" and charged the state for more than $14,500 for work time that should have been recorded as personal leave.
Pitt was fired earlier this month after a separate Minnesota Department of Transportation investigation determined she had abused work-related travel privileges, used tax dollars to pay for personal calls on a state-issued mobile phone and did not return to Minnesota from an East Coast trip until 10 days after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
The legislative auditor's investigation looked at Pitt's travel and other state-paid expenses from July 1, 2005, to Sept. 11, 2007. A complete report from Nobles office was expected this afternoon, but a summary of the audit also pinned some blame on MnDOT officials.
"The Minnesota Department of Transportation did not adequately supervise Ms. Pitt and did not have adequate internal controls over her state-paid expenses," according to the audit's findings.
Pitt took the job leading an office with five employees and a $5.4 million budget in 2005.
When Pitt's termination was made public Nov. 9, MnDOT Commissioner and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau said the "action was taken because an investigation uncovered serious employee misconduct pertaining to out of state travel, misuse of state resources and conduct unbecoming to MnDOT."
Pitt has declined repeated requests to be interviewed. A voice message left Wednesday at her Red Wing home was not immediately returned.