Probe to Examine Alleged ‘Sweetheart Deals' Tied to California High Speed Rail Project

The top private contractor for California's High Speed Rail project now finds itself at the center of a state investigation for allegedly giving sweetheart deals. This is just the latest development in problems between High Speed Rail and the private contractor that is running the project -- problems first exposed by NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit.

Right now, the top consultant has been suspended from the project while California's Fair Political Practices Commission investigates a potential conflict of interest. As NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit previously reported the portion of high speed rail being built in the Central Valley is now years behind schedule, putting billions in federal grant money in jeopardy.

The latest move won't help matters.

The move involves the private international company overseeing the project, WSP USA, Inc.

In April, we obtained internal documents showing WSP had been paid tens of millions of dollars to keep the project on track, but the company has not come through and completed what are called "deliverables" -- the gap between taxpayer money paid to WSP. The deliverables has been growing and now stands at nearly $100 million.

The top WSP official in charge of the company's role in high speed rail, Roy Hill, has been suspended during this investigation after officials say he modified a multi-million dollar contract that involved a company he had a financial interest in.

A top source with high speed rail tells NBC Bay Area that Hill was planning on leaving the project at the end of the month and therefore because of this suspension will not be back at all. Hill was also very close with high speed rail's COO Joe Hedges. Hedges confirmed this in an interview late in April.

A spokeswoman for high speed rail says the authority takes this conflict of interest concern very seriously and confirms the authority asked that Hill be suspended temporarily.

A spokesman for WSP said the company holds itself to be the highest ethical standards and will cooperate with the investigation.

Hill on Tuesday could not be reached for comment.

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