This timeline chronicles the FBI investigation of confidential state bid information leaked by a state highway engineer.
Created by Courierjournal on Aug 11, 2008
Last updated: 03/11/10 at 01:04 PM
Agents search offices of the Utility Management Group of Pikeville, the group that allegedly made payments to Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert to obtain cost estimates for state contracts
A Courier-Journal assessment finds that, in 2006 and 2007, the department accepted single bids that were between 7 percent and 1 2 percent above the engineer's estimate 103 times and rejected only five. Of 187 instances in which a single bid exceeded the estimated cost by at least 7 percent in 2006 and 2007, Fletcher's cabinet rejected the bid 58 times — or 31 percent of the time.
The date of the affidavit given to obtain court approval of search warrants for UMG and a Corbin accounting firm, Marr, Miller &Myers. The accounting firm’s president, Archie Marr, is chief executive officer of UMG
Former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert steps down from his job as a member of the staff for the Senate Republican Caucus. Senate President David Williams, R-Burkesville, said Nighbert resigned to take a job with a company in Eastern Kentucky. Williams said he did not know the company's name. Bill Nighbert (The Courier-Journal file photo)
An associate of Leonard Lawson’s attorney, Larry Mackey, requests documents from the state Transportation Cabinet that relate to the contracting matters being investigated by the FBI. The request seeks: Rummage's personnel, salary and pension records; e-mails and correspondence from Rummage regarding cost estimates of contracts; e-mails between Rummage and 12 highway contracting companies; documents concerning any rule that says bids are to be rejected if more than 7 percent above the cost estimate; highway planning documents from 2000 to 2007 that estimate project costs; and the personnel file of former state highway engineer Sam Beverage, who was fired by Fletcher amid the investigation of his administration's hiring practices. Leonard Lawson (The Courier-Journal file photo)
The Courier-Journal reports that, in 2006 and 2007, two paving companies owned in part by the family of Lexington businessman Leonard Lawson won 44 state highway contracts worth nearly $160 million. That $160 million was more than 5 percent higher than the state's confidential estimates of what the work should cost. The average figure for one of Lawson’s companies, L-M Asphalt Partners of Lexington, was above the 7 percent threshold for rejecting bids. Leonard Lawson (The Courier-Journal file photo)
During an interview, Archie Marr, UMG's chief executive officer, admits “that Nighbert had done no work for UMG," according to the affidavit. Bill Nighbert (The Courier-Journal file photo)
James W. Rummage, a cabinet engineer who oversaw the cabinet's contracting process between 2005-07, abruptly resigns.
A check for $10,417 from Utility Management Group payable to a company called “Two Bucks LLC” is written. A copy of the check was produced by a subpoena during the investigation.
Investigators approach engineer James Rummage who initially lies about being instructed to obtain the Transportation Cabinet's cost estimates for state contracts that are to be kept secret until bids are opened according to the affidavit. About a week later, Rummage said he wanted to retract his earlier statement and cooperate with investigators.
Former Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert goes to work as a member of the staff for the Senate Republican Caucus. Bill Nighbert (The Courier-Journal file photo)
A check for $10,417 from Utility Management Group payable to a company called “Two Bucks LLC” is written. A copy of the check was produced by a subpoena during the investigation. There is no active business registered with the Kentucky secretary of state by that name, according to the affidavit. Nighbert's attorney, Howard Mann, said there were inaccuracies in the affidavit and noted that Nighbert's company is actually named Double-Buck, L.L.C.
A check for $36,050 from Utility Management Group and payable to a company called “Two Bucks LLC” is deposited in Nighbert’s personal account. According to the affidavit, Marr said the $36,050 check was "an advance for Nighbert to purchase (a) car because the company did not want to purchase the car for liability reasons."
Transportation Secretary Bill Nighbert’s tenure ends and he gets a job with Utility Management Group. The affidavit states that Archie Marr, UMG's chief executive officer, said Nighbert was "retained to perform consulting" and that "through his political connections, could assist in developing additional business." Bill Nighbert (The Courier-Journal file photo)
James Rummage is hired to be executive director of the Department of Highways District Seven at a salary of $95,000 per year. He signs a statement at this time that says he did not have a "prearranged agreement" to return to work for the department.
Bill Nighbert recommends that James Rummage be re-hired as executive director of the Department of Highways District Seven office in Lexington. Bill Nighbert (The Courier-Journal file photo)
James Rummage, at age 48, applies for retirement benefits.
The Personnel Cabinet gives final approval to James Rummage’s special 10 percent raise, which becomes effective. Although Rummage works only two weeks at the higher salary, such a raise produces an increase in his retirement benefit and causes his "payout" for accumulated compensatory hours and vacation hours to increase by 10 percent.Rumm
Rummage informs his bosses that he will retire at the end of that month, on Aug. 10.
Highway Commissioner Marc Williams recommends a special 10 percent raise for Rummage. Nighbert also backs the special raise. The raise will boost his annual pay by $11,810.88 -- to $129,919.44, from $118,108.56.
The “hit list” made public during the Fletcher administration’s merit hiring investigation is dated. The list recommends that James Rummage be forced to revert from his politically appointed job to a merit system position and be reassigned.