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June 2001 Rant

"VDOT's Computer Record Deal"

Our Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) has been criticized for everything from not fixing potholes to wasting taxpayer dollars. Let's take a look at how VDOT blew nearly $50 million dollars of your taxes.

Everything today is computerized. Every government agency, business and organization has computerized records; except VDOT. VDOT has had an information technology division for 30 years but no computerized records. In March the agency finally began training administrators for computer technology. Think about that for a minute. All state and local agencies with computerized records have bragged about the thousands of dollars saved each year because of computer technology, but VDOT is just beginning to train administrators!

VDOT has a ton of records that need to be placed in a computer database. The agency contracted Woodside Summit Group to do this project. However Woodside was fired in 1998 when VDOT auditors found that Woodside charged for work that was never done, double-billed for some work and was suspected of other fraud. Woodside did collect $46.7 million dollars before VDOT pulled the plug on the contract.

After that fiasco VDOT resolved not to let this happen again. So the agency created the positions of inspector general and chief information technology officer. I'm certain these jobs pay well and are paid out of our taxes.

Now VDOT needed someone to blame this mess on and rumor has it the agency decided on Peter Kolakowski. Kolakowski spent over 15 years in various administrative positions with VDOT and allegedly pointed out the problems with the Woodside computer project (who better to be the fall guy).

So Kolakowski was placed on administrative leave and later resigned. But don't feel too sorry for Peter. He managed to work out a deal where he received $33,586 (four months salary). This former city manager of Fredericksburg now works for the federal government as an administrator. Here's what state Transportation Commissioner Charles Nottingham had to say about the deal: "The terms and conditions of his resignation were the subject of a carefully researched and drafted legal settlement between Peter Kolakowski and VDOT. I personally approved the legal settlement, take full responsibility for it, and would handle the matter in exactly the same fashion if the same facts and circumstances presented themselves today." Here's what Kolakowski had to say: "VDOT was able to achieve their objectives, and I was able to achieve mine."

I'm glad that Peter and VDOT were able to achieve their objectives, but what about the objectives of the tax paying citizens of this state? How can an agency waste nearly $50 million dollars and have absolutely nothing to show for that money? And consider this…Woodside Summit claims it has always acted properly and complied with all the terms of the VDOT contract. The only losers in this mess are us, the ones that paid for this foolishness.

Update: It was announced in September 2001 that VDOT has had to pay this company an additional $800,000. VDOT officials said it was pay or go to court and lose.

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