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Feds Suspend Construction Trainer

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

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The former director of a university program that trained students for highway construction careers has been suspended from future federal transportation contracts amid allegations that he lied to U.S. investigators.

The Federal Highway Administration suspended Kwa Mister, 38, on March 11. The agency said Mister had lied about his relationship with the owner of a company to whom he had awarded $85,500 of work. The project was funded through the Illinois Department of Transportation.

The contract went to Phoenix Support Services, a company owned by Mister's mother that had also been suspended from transportation contracts.

Kwa Mister
Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville

The FHWA suspended Kwa Mister after he was charged with lying to investigators about giving a training contract to a company owned by his mother. Her firm had been banned from receiving federally supported contracts.

Mister was program manager for the Highway Construction Preparatory Training Program (HCPTP) at Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville. He also was director of SIU-E's Small Business Development Center.

$2M Training Program

The training program was launched in Illinois in September 2008. Participants must complete an eight-week (180-hour), hands-on, performance-based training that includes a mandatory reading and basic mathematics primer.

The program is designed to ensure that a diversified, properly trained workforce is available for road construction projects in the state.

IDOT started the $2 million program in partnership with SIU-E, Southwestern Illinois College and the Metro-East Black Contractors Organization. At the time, officials hoped the program would provide future workers for the Mississippi River Bridge project.

2-Count Indictment

Mister was indicted in January in U.S. District Court, Southern District of Illinois, and charged with two counts of making a false statement to the U.S. Department of Transportation, Office of Inspector General and the U.S. Department of Labor, Office of Labor Racketeering and Fraud Investigations.

If convicted, he faces up to 10 years in prison, a $250,000 fine, and up to three years of supervised release.

According to the indictment, an investigation and audit uncovered more than a dozen purchase orders, contracts and sole-source justification forms concerning the procurement of $85,500 in services from "L.A.S." (name removed) dba Phoenix Support Services from March 2010 through January 2011.

Illinois Department of Transportation

When IDOT launched the $2 million Highway Construction Preparatory Training Program, the agency hoped its graduates would be future workers on the Mississippi River Bridge project.

The Illinois Department of Transportation was billed and reimbursed SIU for the costs. IDOT had an intergovernmental agreement with the university to be the fiscal agent for the HCPTP.

Relationship Investigated

Mister allegedly initiated the procurement of the contracts with Phoenix Support Services. He allegedly procured the services of his mother, L.A.S., for sole-source contracts, but hid the family relationship and potential conflict of interest from the university.

When the contracts with Phoenix Support Services were under investigation, Mister allegedly lied to university officials as to whether the owner of the company was his mother.

"There is no right to lie to federal agents conducting an investigation," said U.S. District Attorney Stephen R. Wigginton.


Tagged categories: Colleges and Universities; Department of Transportation (DOT); Enforcement; Ethics; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Laws and litigation; North America; Program/Project Management; Worker training

Comment from MICHAEL DEATON, (3/25/2015, 7:07 AM)

And yet another busted crook out of really makes one wonder just how ignorant and greedy these folks are....amazing!

Comment from jim dolan, (3/25/2015, 12:54 PM)

How about taking a look at spending practices of the governments involved, and not just Ill. but all of them. How do the taxpayers get value for these programs?

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