FEBRUARY 03, 2009
In the latest of several scandals to hit Oklahoma’s second-largest city, two public officials have been federally charged in a bribery scheme involving millions of dollars worth of government contracts.
Federal prosecutors say the Tulsa public work managers accepted bribes from contractors and over paid them—with tax dollars, of course—for their work. The two city officials and the four area businessmen who bribed them have been charged with a variety of crimes, including money laundering, fraud and receiving or paying bribes to influence the award of city contracts.
The case involves at least $4 million in public money diverted from bridges, streets and other infrastructure projects. Authorities say Tulsa design engineering manager Larry Baker and field engineer manager Albert Martinez took hefty sums from executives at four contracting firms involved in the large-scale projects.
Examples in the federal indictment include Martinez taking a $10,000 bribe to get a public works committee to give contracts to a particular firm and $7,000 for a separate favor. Baker actually bribed a city employee with $9,000 to gain his vote in awarding an inspection contract, according to prosecutors.
Claiming “zero tolerance” for ethics violations, fraud and corruption, Tulsa’s mayor has ordered a thorough audit of the city’s troubled public works department. The probe is expected to take two months and will cost taxpayers $90,000.
The city has been rocked by other scandals recently, including the audit of two top transit officials for mishandling funds and the fire department’s falsification of medical training records.
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