Bay Bridge

Firing of Caltrans testing supervisor upheld

The firing of a former engineering supervisor for the California Department of Transportation, whose unit was involved in falsification of test data for foundations of state bridges, was upheld Thursday by the State Personnel Board.

Brian Liebich, who once headed the Caltrans Foundation Testing Branch, had appealed his firing, which took place in November 2011 following a Bee investigation of malfeasance and fraud within his unit. Liebich was fired for taking building materials from a state storage area and using them for structures on his personal property in Susanville, and for fraudulently approving payments to employees in his unit who helped him move the materials.

One of those employees, Duane Wiles, admitted to falsifying data. Wiles also was fired, but later was rehired by Caltrans and allowed to retire with full benefits.

The ruling by Barbara E. Allen-Brecher, an administrative law judge, called Liebich's testimony in his own defense "evasive and inconsistent," and less credible than other Caltrans witnesses.

The judge dismissed other charges, including that Liebich acted "with inefficiency and willful disobedience," and that he improperly approved certain overtime payments.

Liebich could not be reached for comment. His attorney, Steve Simas, said grounds for the rejection of some charges apparently were not applied uniformly by the judge, which he called "concerning." Simas said his firm would "weigh our options with our client" after a complete review of the ruling.

"(Liebich) was vested with great autonomy and authority in his position. He used that autonomy and authority for his personal gain (and) accepts little, if any, responsibility for his misconduct," Allen-Brecher wrote, suggesting "a very high likelihood of recurrence should he be reinstated."

Liebich could request a rehearing before the board or petition for a review in Superior Court.

Call The Bee's Charles Piller, (916) 321-1113. Follow him on Twitter @cpiller.