Bay Bridge

Senate transportation panel chief asks for Caltrans criminal probe

The chairman of the state Senate Transportation and Housing Committee on Tuesday called on Attorney General Kamala Harris to open a criminal investigation into the practices of the California Department of Transportation's Foundation Testing Branch.

A recent Bee investigation exposed data falsification by a branch technician, Duane Wiles, and theft of building materials by the branch supervisor, Brian Liebich.

"Failure to conduct reliable inspection tests on the foundations of bridges, freeway ramps, retaining walls, and other structures may erode the public's confidence in Caltrans' management of the state highway and bridge program," Sen. Mark DeSaulnier, D-Concord, wrote to Harris.

"State government cannot be a safe haven for employees who shirk their public safety duties and who steal state property for private purposes."

Sacramento County and federal prosecutors already are evaluating possible criminal cases against the testing unit employees, whom Caltrans fired after The Bee article appeared.