FITCHBURG -- With more than 10,000 pages already generated for just the past six months' worth of documents, and about six more years to go, the state inspector general's investigation of the Montachusett Regional Transit Authority is proving to be of a much larger scope than expected.
Mark Smith, a partner of Laredo & Smith, LLP, a Boston law firm hired to represent and advise MART in the investigation, revealed at the MART Advisory Board's meeting Tuesday morning that the Office of the Inspector General has asked for 19 categories of documents and communications, spanning from Jan. 1, 2008, through the present.
The IG began an investigation of MART after allegations arose in January that Administrator Mohammed Khan and another employee may have been collecting both a pension and a full-time public salary in violation of state law.
Khan, who retired from the Montachusett Regional Planning Commission in 2003 and has been at MART since, maintains that the law changed to include authorities well after his retirement from the MRPC, and that he is grandfathered in.
According to the official request from the IG to MART, dated Feb. 21, the items requested include:
* Personnel files and other personnel policies and information.
* Contact information and all documents pertaining to the Advisory Board and its members.
* All procurement files and policies.
* A list of all credit or debit cards assigned to or used by MART and related policies.
* A list of all vehicles owned, leased or otherwise paid for by MART, and related purchase, cost and user information.
* The motor-vehicle use policy.
* All audit reports, financial statements and federal reporting documentation.
* All currently active contracts for goods and services.
* All documents and communications pertaining to Management Transportation Services Inc., MART's bus contractor.
* MART's general ledger.
* All surveillance-camera footage for the last 60 days.
MART board members were shocked to hear of the amount of paper, ink and other resources being used to comply with the investigation, and Smith said there is no provision in the law to receive reimbursement for the expenses.
"Great, so they could bankrupt us," said Gardner Mayor Mark Hawke, vice chairman of the committee, who called the investigation a "seemingly chartered fishing expedition."
Smith, who said he previously worked for several years in the Criminal Bureau of the Attorney General's Office and worked closely with the IG's office, said it is common practice of the agency to request a large, broad amount of documents and information in the course of an investigation.
"As a general rule, these agencies will not tell you what they're looking for," he said. "And, no criticism, oftentimes they don't know, because they get information that's unspecified, so they kind of have to do their own independent review and come to their own conclusions."
Smith said it can take several months to submit the requested documents, and then even longer for the IG's office to analyze them -- and then more documents and interviews could be requested.
If any evidence of criminal conduct is found, the IG's office is required to report it to the attorney general, the district attorney or the U.S. attorney, he said.
If no evidence of such is found, Smith said, the investigation would likely go into a report, and MART would have an opportunity to respond to the draft version in case anything needs correction.
He said what has been sent to the IG's office thus far is a sampling of what the agency requested, and he hopes that review of what has been sent will lead the agency to narrow its rather broad investigation.
Smith said the IG's office is "very interested" in MART's procurement documents, and has already narrowed some of its requests to some of the bigger vendors with which MART does business.
A full list of MART's more than 250 vendors will still be supplied to the IG's office for review, he said.
Smith said it is best for MART to fully comply with every request made, and that sending data electronically is an avenue that is being discussed.
In other business, the MART Advisory Board also voted to apply to enter the State Retirement System, the previous interest in which initiated Khan's "double-dipping" allegations. Donna Landry, director of human resources, said a majority of MART's employees expressed interest in joining.
Also on the agenda was whether or not the Advisory Board should hire special legal counsel to represent it on labor matters, a move some members felt should have been taken before reinstating Khan last month after he was put on administrative leave in January by Chairwoman Lisa Wong, the mayor of Fitchburg.
The board, split over the matter, chose to hold off on making a decision.
Members chose to allow Deputy Administrator Bruno Fisher to write a letter to the State Retirement Board for an update on the review of Khan's pension and earnings, and to inquire whether the board will have any fiduciary responsibility on the matter moving forward.
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