NTTA chief seeks answers to consultant study questions

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by BRETT SHIPP

WFAA

Posted on August 17, 2011 at 10:01 PM

Updated Wednesday, Aug 17 at 10:17 PM

NEWS 8 INVESTIGATES

The chairman of the North Texas Tollway Authority says he wants answers as to why his agency paid nearly $50,000 for questionable work by a technical consultant.

His concerns follow a News 8 investigation into a contract with the company Wai-Wize, whose CEO is named in connection with an FBI investigation.

Radio industry consultant Robert Shapiro of Plano agreed to review the report in question for News 8.

Wai-Wize was paid $47,500 to perform a technical assessment of NTTA's radio equipment and come up with recommendations for system improvements. Our investigation took a closer look at the report and raised several questions about its quality.

Shapiro, an independent industry specialist, agrees.

Regarding the appearance and presentation of the report, Shapiro observed, "they had very bad grammar and typesets in the print."

Shapiro also noticed something pointed out in the News 8 investigation: The similarities between the content of the Wai-Wize report and information found on the Internet.

"Just cutting and pasting information off the Internet and placing it as a front matter to your report is not a professional report," Shapiro said.

Shapiro notes that if professionally done, a report of this nature should have only cost about $20,000. But since the NTTA didn't put it out for bids, the agency only got one quote for nearly $50,000.

Another curiosity: Wai-Wize issued the report to NTTA on February 20, 2008. Yet according to records obtained by News 8, the contract between Wai-Wize and NTTA was dated more than a week later, on March 1, 2008.

What's more, some of the photographs contained in the Wai-Wize report were dated October 3, 2008, seven months after the report's release date.

Wai-Wize has not returned our phone calls seeking a response. Its CEO, Willis Johnson, has been named in a search warrant in connection to the FBI investigation of Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price.

However, the response from NTTA's board chairman Victor Vandergriff is clear. "I certainly intend with the Executive Director and the staff to have them come back and have a thorough discussion with the board in public about that particular contract," he said.

E-mail bshipp@wfaa.com

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