16-month corruption investigation produces little

Posted at 3:31 PM, Jul 22, 2014
and last updated 2014-07-22 17:44:33-04

Norfolk's 16-month internal investigation into a costly public corruption scandal has resulted in not a single public document. Norfolk city leaders are maintaining material generated in the investigation will be kept secret from the public.

Last year, a city plumbing contractor pleaded guilty to bribing Norfolk employees to get more city work. Andrew T. Zoby admitted he inflated his bills -- covered by taxpayers -- to recoup the payoffs. A top plumbing supervisor admitted he accepted bribes, as did a retired master plumber. After the FBI broke the case, Norfolk City Manager Marcus Jones ordered an internal investigation, but more than a year later, there's little to show for it.

Responding to a NewsChannel 3 open-records request, the city said the investigation generated "a small database" and nothing else. The city is keeping that document secret. There is apparently no case summary, no documents showing the scope of the work, and nothing to show the city dug deeper into the losses.

"That's unacceptable," said Councilman Andy Protogyrou. The councilman has repeatedly called for more transparency in Norfolk government, especially when there are accusations of wrongdoing. He says the city has done better lately, but this is a setback.

Protogyrou said he expected at the very least a summary of how the investigation was conducted. But he got essentially the same email as did NewsChannel 3 from city spokeswoman Lori Crouch. In her email, she said no other city workers were involved. She said the city would not release any more.

"It's not just necessarily what I expect, it's what the citizens expect," Protogyrou said. "And the citizens expect a level of transparency when you have a claim of public corruption."

A federal judge awarded Norfolk $18,000 in restitution from Zoby. A city document from last year put the losses closer to $60,000. And a NewsChannel 3 investigation showed Zoby had billed the city millions for his years of contract work. We also uncovered how Zoby routinely overbilled the city. Protogyrou said he will push for more information in Tuesday's City Council meeting.

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