Whistleblower lawsuit to proceed against Pa. Turnpike

By David Tanner, Land Line senior editor | 9/2/2015

A former manager with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission believes he was wrongfully terminated in 2008 after he complained about improprieties, politically motivated contracts, and “wasteful practices.”

A whistleblower lawsuit filed by former financial reporting manager Ralph Bailets received the go-ahead by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on Monday, Aug. 31.

Bailets was employed with the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission from 1998 to 2008. He says he was terminated after raising a number of concerns, according to a whistleblower complaint filed with the Commonwealth Court of Common Pleas.

“During this time, appellant frequently complained that he observed improprieties and wasteful practices regarding various matters, including a Commission computer systems contract with Ciber Inc., E-ZPass discounts, politically motivated personnel actions, and the use of multiple, unnecessary external investment managers,” court documents state.

Bailets claimed that his supervisors, Chief Financial Officer Nikolaus H. Grieshaber and Director of Accounting Anthony Q. Maun, retaliated against him for raising the concerns.

“Specifically, with regard to the Ciber computer systems contract, appellant alleged he made numerous oral and written reports to Maun and Grieshaber about the politically connected vendor’s improper access to insider information for a request for proposal (RFP) for the creation of a computerized financial reporting system, which was not equally available to other bidding vendors,” a court filing shows.

The Turnpike Commission officials stated in a motion for summary judgment that Bailets was terminated along with 14 other individuals in response to a poor economy and not because he was complaining.

The Commonwealth Court of Common Pleas sided with the Turnpike and denied whistleblower relief to Bailets in 2014. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruling on Monday overturns the lower court’s decision and remands the case back to the court to proceed.

Some of the information in the case is directly related to a high-profile indictment of several key Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission officials including former CEO Joseph Brimmier, former state Sen. Robert Mellow, and former Turnpike Commission Chairman Mitchell Rubin. Those officials and others who were charged by the state’s attorney general in an alleged political “pay-to-play” scheme avoided jail sentences in 2014 by having charges dismissed or pleading guilty to lesser counts.

Some of the information that led to the attorney general’s charges in the alleged “pay-to-play” scheme involved the same $62 million computer contract with Ciber and other contracts awarded to clients fingered by Bailets in his whistleblower filing.

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