Bay Bridge Structural Tests Questioned

Caltrans went on defense Monday following Sac Bee investigation

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    NEWSLETTERS

    A technician is under investigation for possible falsification of safety tests for the Bay Bridge. (Published Monday, Nov 14, 2011)

    A California Department of Transportation technician who tested seismic safety on the Bay Bridge's eastern span and his supervisor have been fired because of evidence of falsified safety testing on state structures, Caltrans officials announced Monday.

    Duane Wiles and his supervisor Brian Liebich's firings come on the heels of a Sacramento Bee report published Saturday that exposes Wiles' fabricated safety tests in recent years on a San Bernardino bridge, a Los Angeles freeway's retaining wall and a hanging sign on Interstate Highway 580 in Oakland, Caltrans acting director Malcolm Dougherty said.

    According to the Sacramento Bee, Wiles also failed to check whether his testing gauge was functioning properly while working on the Bay Bridge project. Caltrans officials said assessments of Wiles' work on the Bay Bridge's new span prove that the technician did not fabricate safety test results for the multi-billion-dollar project.

    Dougherty and Caltrans' toll bridge program manager Tony Anziano today said Wiles' falsified testing was limited to three structures, and that extensive re-testing has assured those structures' safety. They insisted that Wiles' actions do not endanger the safety of the motoring public. "Once it was brought to our attention, we reviewed all work (Wiles) had worked on," Dougherty said. "We have gone back and reevaluated the three structures -- all have been deemed safe and adequate."

    A still-ongoing federal probe followed the internal investigation into Wiles' work, he said.

    Caltrans officials first learned of the technician's fabricated safety reports in 2008, when he was placed on administrative leave. "He was certainly on a short leash," Dougherty said. Shortly after, Wiles and Liebich were assigned to non-safety-related Caltrans tasks, and continued working for Caltrans until Nov. 8, when they were notified they would be fired effective Nov. 18, Dougherty said.

    The Caltrans director said Liebich was fired because state materials were found on his property, and not due to Wiles' fabricated tests. Dougherty said he has not been made aware of Wiles' motive for falsifying safety test results and that Caltrans officials have not determined whether or not they will press criminal charges against the technician.

    Fielding questions from reporters today, the Caltrans official said he would be open to an independent audit of the department's safety testing procedures.

    Bay City News