Bay Bridge

Fired Caltrans technician was also sanctioned in 2000

Caltrans technician Duane Wiles, who falsified test data on the structural integrity of freeway structures, was sanctioned by the state Department of Transportation in 2000 for numerous serious workplace violations, including "inexcusable neglect of duty," yet was retained as a technician until last month.

The Bee reported last week that Wiles also had been fired in 1998 for "incompetency insubordination, dishonesty" and other infractions, but that firing was overturned by the State Personnel Board.

Wiles' most recent firing notice, issued in November and recently obtained by The Bee, indicated that his history at the agency was even more troubled than officials previously acknowledged.

In last month's "notice of adverse action," or firing notice, James E. Davis, acting chief of Caltrans' Division of Engineering Services, wrote that Wiles' adverse action notice in 2000 was for "Inefficiency, Inexcusable Neglect of Duty, Misuse of State Property, Other failure of good behavior and Unlawful Discrimination."

Davis gave no indication whether Wiles was fired in 2000 and later reinstated on appeal, as occurred after the 1998 firing.

His memo shows further evidence that Caltrans officials had been aware of Wiles' serious, ongoing problems for many years while the technician was assigned to testing jobs crucial to public safety.

Officials have known about Wiles' falsification of data since the fall of 2008, and were warned by a whistle-blower in 2009 that Wiles also had abused overtime records. Inquiries into those actions proceeded sluggishly, however, until after The Bee began to inquire about his status this October.

A Bee investigation in November reported that in addition to falsifying data on three freeway structures, Wiles was instrumental in testing foundations for the main tower of the new Bay Bridge eastern span.

Neither Wiles nor Caltrans spokesman Matt Rocco could be reached for comment.

Caltrans has asserted that all the structures in question – including the Bay Bridge – are safe. But state legislators have launched inquiries into the agency's actions, and an expert panel has initiated a detailed review of the Bay Bridge and other structures. That review is expected to take several months to complete.

Local, state and federal prosecutors also have launched criminal inquiries into events described in The Bee reports.

In his memo, Davis cited three causes for Wiles' most recent firing: falsification of data for integrity tests, lying about his actions to a federal Department of Transportation investigator, and falsification of 134 hours of overtime and 302 hours of differential-time pay records. The pay issues occurred in 86 separate cases during 2008.

The Bee previously reported that Wiles collected close to $39,000 for 925 hours of claimed overtime between July 2006 and June 2008. Davis made no mention of examining Wiles' hours outside of 2008, and did not indicate the amount Wiles might be required to repay if his firing is upheld by the State Personnel Board.

Nor did Davis refer to Wiles' involvement in the theft of state and federal building materials by his former supervisor, Brian Liebich, as reported by the federal investigator in a recent report. Caltrans also fired Liebich in November.

Wiles will get a hearing before a judge Jan. 20 on the appeal of his most recent firing. Reversals of firing decisions are rare, according to the state Department of Personnel Administration.