Failing to verify faked credentials used by a bridge inspector it employed has proven costly for a Connecticut engineering firm.
Garg Consulting Services will shell out $390,000 to settle allegations by state and federal officials that it failed to properly vet the credentials of an employee who falsely claimed to be a credentialed engineer with a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering and an engineer-in-training certificate from the state of Connecticut.
In reality, Barry Kenneth Purnell, Jr. never graduated from college and had not even applied for the state’s engineer-in-training certificate, let alone received it, according to state and federal investigators.
Purnell pleaded guilty in state court back in February for trying to obtain employment as a bridge inspector under false pretenses.
Based in Rocky Hill, Conn., Garg employed Purnell between 2007 and 2010, state officials said. The company performs construction management and inspection services as both a contractor and subcontractor to the Connecticut Dept. of Transportation.
Garg failed to do “appropriate employee screening” and submitted Purnell’s “purported credentials” to meet requirements set forth under government contracts, the U.S. Dept. of Transportation inspector general’s office said in a statement. Garg reached its settlement with the inspector general on June 22.
Connecticut's Dept. of Transportation, AMTRAK and federal prosecutors also participated in the investigation.
“It is imperative that our roads, bridges and other components of our critical infrastructure are constructed, maintained and inspected only by qualified individuals,” said Daly, in a statement. “This case sends a clear message that government contractors that do not properly vet all of their employees risk investigation and a heavy financial penalty.”
Connecticut transportation officials triggered the investigation of Purnell's credentials during an internal audit, said Judd Everhart, a spokesman for the state DOT.
One of the highest-profile projects Purnell worked was the replacement by Amtrak of a moveable span on the Thames River Bridge. It is a major link in the Northeast rail corridor and connects Groton with New London.
Purnell worked on at least half a dozen projects in the state between 2007 and 2010, including the reconstruction of Route 7 in Wilton and an 1-91 resurfacing project in Hartford, as well as one various bridge inspections.
However, Connecticut transportation officials have decided it is unnecessary to go back and check Purnell’s work because he never was the one “signing the reports on behalf of Garg and certifying that the work was properly done,” Everhart responded in an email.
Purnell has not worked on any state bridge projects since 2012, and all state bridges are inspected at least once every two years, Everhart wrote.
Garg’s settlement ensures it will not have to face a lawsuit from the government, with the company not admitting to liability or wrongdoing, according to press statement put out by state and federal officials.
“When we hire a contractor, we consider it the contractor’s responsibility to vet and vouch for the credentials of employees,” Everhart wrote. “So I’m not sure what more might have been done to prevent something like this.”