Minnesota to investigate supervision of emergency manager

Missing official was fired Nov. 9

News The Associated Press / Woodbury Bulletin November 13, 2007
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The administration of Gov. Tim Pawlenty will investigate the supervision of Sonia Pitt, the senior Minnesota Department of Transportation (Mn/DOT) official fired Nov. 9 for work-schedule improprieties, a spokesman for the governor said.

A previous investigation found that Pitt abused work-related travel privileges by charging the state for personal travel and phone calls and that she did not return to Minnesota after the I-35W bridge collapsed Aug. 1, killing 13 people.

"This afternoon [Nov. 12], Gov. Pawlenty said that Sonia Pitt's termination by Mn/DOT was appropriate and that the department and the governor's office will review if she was properly supervised," Pawlenty spokesman Brian McClung said in an e-mail.

According to her termination letter, Pitt was at a Boston conference when the bridge fell. On Aug. 3, she flew to Washington, D.C., for nonwork reasons and remained there for eight days. The state said she had no work-related reason to be in Washington, did not offer to return to Minnesota and was not asked to do so.

“This action was taken because an investigation uncovered serious employee misconduct pertaining to out-of-state travel, misuse of state resources and conduct unbecoming to Mn/DOT,” said Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, the state’s transportation commissioner. “The investigation was conducted in a deliberate and thorough manner in accordance with state law and agency policy.”

According to the agency investigation, Pitt debated whether to promptly return after the bridge collapse, but decided not to, saying her staff “was doing a great job.”

Molnau was in China when the bridge collapsed, but quickly returned to Minnesota.

With a salary of $84,500, Pitt was responsible for directing the response to transportation-related disasters.

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