The State Worker

Caltrans official faces bribery charges over contracts

In this 2006 file photo, Stephanie Bussi of Californians for Disability Rights is stopped by a curb drop-off on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. Law enforcement officials announced bribery charges Wednesday against Caltrans’ state coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act.
In this 2006 file photo, Stephanie Bussi of Californians for Disability Rights is stopped by a curb drop-off on the Pacific Coast Highway in Long Beach. Law enforcement officials announced bribery charges Wednesday against Caltrans’ state coordinator for the Americans with Disabilities Act. Sacramento Bee Staff Photo

State authorities have arrested a Caltrans employee in Sacramento who allegedly accepted at least $100,000 in bribes, including an SUV, in return for steering Americans with Disabilities Act compliance projects to specific recipients.

The arrest of Alex Morales III, Caltrans’ statewide coordinator for the federal law meant to improve accessibility for disabled people, followed a nine-month investigation by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Investigation. Officials served four search warrants, including some at state buildings.

“Accepting bribes in exchange for awarding public contracts is illegal and corrupt, and violates the public’s trust in government,” Attorney General Kamala Harris said in a statement. “My office will continue to hold this individual – and others like him – accountable for their crimes.”

None of the entities that allegedly bribed Morales have been charged but the investigation is ongoing, Harris spokeswoman Kristin Ford said.

Morales could not be immediately reached for comment. He was in the Placer County jail on $50,000 bail Wednesday afternoon but was expected to make bail, a jail official said. His next scheduled court date is Jan. 25, according to the criminal complaint.

Morales, 55, coordinated projects to bring bridges, walkways and other Caltrans-maintained public works into compliance with the disabilities act. According to the 21-count criminal complaint, Morales accepted at least $100,000 in bribes over about four years. Monthly cash payments ranged from $1,800 to $12,000, and he also received a bribe in the form of a new 2010 Ford SUV.

“We have a set of values that drive Caltrans and this behavior is not consistent with those values,” Caltrans Director Malcolm Dougherty said in a statement. “If an employee goes outside of those values, they don’t have a place in this department.”

Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck said the department “will be taking our own administrative action to terminate the employee.”

According to state pay data, Morales earned a base salary of $74,912 in 2014.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 5:43 p.m. Dec. 16 to include comment from Caltrans spokesman Will Shuck.

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