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Sac Bee uncovers ethical conflicts in Bay Bridge safety report

Monday, March 26, 2012

imageThe Sacramento Bee has scored again in reporting safety concerns involving construction of the Bay Bridge’s eastern span. Last fall, the Bee revealed that a state employee who it said had failed to ensure accuracy while examining the foundation of the new span’s main tower had fabricated integrity tests on other structures. Caltrans has insisted that there are no problems with the structure.

Add: But on Sunday the Bee reported that three of the four members of an ostensibly independent panel that released findings Friday declaring Caltrans’ work as correct and the bridge safe have had financial ties to Caltrans or its contractors. And three of the four helped select the Bay Bridge design. Ethics experts are calling it a clear conflict of interest. An excerpt:

Experts on government ethics said the panel lacks the impartiality necessary to be perceived by the public as unbiased. Paula A. Franzese, a law and ethics professor at Seton Hall University in Newark, NJ, advises state and local governments on such matters. She described the panel's practices as "a significant departure from standard ethical canons."

"One central tenet of good governance," Franzese said, "is that those who act in the public trust must not be perceived as amassing some sort of personal gain as a product of that work."

More: Among those stirred up over the secrecy is State Sen. Mark DeSaulnier (D-Concord), the transportation committee chairman: “We have to fix it. The whole idea of building a new bridge is for public safety.”

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