Federal officials in Birmingham, Ala., have charged top county environmental managers and construction company executives with seven counts of bribery and fraud involving the award of $150 million in sewer construction contracts.
The indictment claims that officials from Roland Pugh Construction Co., Bessemer, Ala., paid bribes to Jefferson County officials to win a share of the $1.6-billion construction program needed to comply with a 1996 consent decree between the county and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Jack Swann, the countys environmental services director, and his deputy, Harry Chandler, were charged in the 34-count indictment handed up Feb. 7 by a federal grand jury sitting in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Alabama. Swann is accused of receiving $100,000 in landscaping work and Chandler $14,000 in free trips. Roland Wilson, the departments chief civil engineer, is accused of receiving bogus scholarship money for his sons college education and construction and maintenance supervisor Clarence Barber property valued at nearly $48,000.
Pugh Construction and two of its owners, CEO Grady Pugh and President Joseph Yessick, are accused of offering bribes. Yessick is charged with 13 counts of bribery.
County Commissioner Gary White, who oversees the sewer department, says all contracts were bid competitively. He says the county has implemented recommendations by consulting engineer BE&K Inc., Birmingham, to regain control of the department. "Weve set up a citizens advisory committee and taken other steps to make the process more transparent, he says.
The defendants face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 on each count of mail fraud and up to 10 years in prison and $250,000 fines for each bribery charge, if convicted. The defendants were not available for comment.