Gov. McDonnell Initiates Review of VRE

"Multiple internal control issues" prompt review of Virginia Railway Express management.

Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell has asked for a review of Virginia Railway Express (VRE) relating to its governance and management practices.

"There are multiple internal control issues that have arisen recently which are summarized below, which call into question the management of Virginia Railway Express," wrote McDonnell in an Oct. 3 letter to Virginia Inspector General Michael Morehart and Auditor of Public Accounts Walter Kucharski.

McDonnell said he'd learned of the issues in question "through multiple sources."

At Tuesday night's Fredericksburg City Council Meeting, Ward III Council Member and VRE Board Member Fred Howe announced he was participating in the review process.

"The Governor has undertaken a review of VRE based on some whistle blowers," Howe said. "I am being interviewed by the Governor's auditors tomorrow. ... As a sitting board member of VRE, I believe in the staff and the leadership of VRE, and have faith they will come through this."

In a Wednesday morning email to Patch about the review, Howe said, "I have a meeting today [Wednesday, Nov. 14] with the VRE attorney and then tomorrow [Thursday, Nov. 15] with the state auditor, David Rasnic."

McDonnell listed eight items in his letter, which focused almost exclusively on VRE's Director of Engineering and Construction Sirel Mouchantaf and his wife, EEOC Officer Jennifer Mouchantaf. It is alleged that:

  • Several employees had employment issues with Mr. Mouchantaf, but did not report them because his wife is VRE's EEOC officer.
  • Mr. Mouchantaf operates or did operate a constuction business while employed at VRE.
  • Sirel Mouchantaf purchased a rebar finder in his role as VRE's Director of Engineering and Construction, and had it shipped to his home address.  The item, which cost about $1,800, cannot be located.
  • A separate report by VRE's auditors states that Sirel Mouchantaf and Jennifer Mouchantaf were both assigned to panels to select contractors in the past, but the VRE CEO, Operations Board and/or Commissions make final determinations.
  • The VRE CEO was paid for travel that did not comply with his contract.
  • There have been multiple pay raises that seem to be isolated to one division.  An anonymous email claims these raises were instituted when their work was terminated at Mr. Mouchantaf's company.
  • Mr. Mouchantaf refused to listen to a former employee who said the Broad Run platform had been constructed in a manner which would result in the train hitting the platform. The train did hit the platform.

In August, VRE's Board declined an independent audit; the majority of board members said they wanted to wait until a separate FBI investigation was completed.

Kevin Wirth Jannell, 49, of Fredericksburg, pled guilty on Sept. 27 to taking more than $200,000 in bribes to ensure a VRE subcontractor would be retained, according to the FBI

"Jannell agreed to take up to $4,000 each month in return for giving favorable evaluations that would ensure an individual and this person’s company would be retained as a subcontractor for VRE," said the FBI press release.

Serena Engstrom May 31, 2013 at 08:43 PM
So whatever came of the Governor's inquest? According to the VRE website, the wife doesn't work there but the husband who had all the complaints still does.


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