Montana Man Sentenced for Making False Statements on $21 Million ARRA Funded Idaho Bridge Project
On February 19, 2013, Kip Harris, former lead superintendent, Sletten Construction (Slatten), Granite Falls, Montana, was sentenced in U.S. District Court, Boise, Idaho, to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $750.00 fine and $100 special assessment. Harris was indicted in September 2012 for making false statements regarding the quality of work Sletten performed on the U.S. 2 Dover Bridge project near Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, a $21.6 million project funded by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. Harris directed laborers under his supervision to modify nonconforming anchor bolts so they would appear to the inspection team hired by Idaho Transportation Department (ITD) to conform to project plans, knowing that the anchor bolts did not conform to the contract specifications.
In July 2010, Harris determined the anchor bolts were not installed in accordance with the contract specifications to achieve the designed tensile capacity. Harris then directed his employees to engage in a number of practices to misrepresent the quality of the anchor bolt installation, which included tack welding or epoxying an additional piece of bolt and/or nut onto an embedded, but short, anchor bolt. Harris did this to make the anchor bolts appear as though they were correctly installed and ensure they passed inspection. ITD inspectors discovered the deficiencies during a routine construction inspection of the new bridge's piers. Inspectors found approximately 100 of the improperly installed bolts. The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and ITD had bridge experts evaluate the potential safety risks to the bridge the deficient anchor bolts posed. Both agencies determined that the consequences of not discovering and repairing the non-confirming anchor bolts would have had a minimal impact on the structural integrity of the bridge. Sletten has since made repairs to the bridge to correct the deficiencies. Harris was suspended by the FHWA in October 2011, and Sletten terminated his employment with the company shortly thereafter.
The FBI and OIG are conducting the investigation, with assistance from FHWA and ITD.