DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – When DART set out to replace their radios back in 2006, Engineer Ray Trott thought his company could do the work. But Trott’s firm, Trott Communications Group, didn’t get the job. “This thing kind of upset me.”
Instead, DART’s general contractor selected Wai-Wize, a company Trott says he knew nothing about. “This is an industry I’ve been in for 34 years. we knew all our competitors, and I never heard of Wai-Wize. Never.”
Trott says records showed Wai-Wize wasn’t licensed, as required by state law. So on August 1, 2006, he fired off a complaint to the Texas Board of Professional Engineers and questioned why Wai-Wize got the job.
After investigating, the Board of Professional Engineers issued a report finding Wai-Wize violated state law.
The board found, “…the firm…accepted this contract for the engineering services and eventually performed these services during a period when a Texas licensed professional engineer was not employed nor was their firm registered with the board…”
Wai-Wize is named in the FBI’s search warrants as part of the investigation into Dallas County Commissioner John Wiley Price. The company’s owner, Willis Johnson, is friends with Price. Even so, there’s no indication that Price played any role in Wai-Wize’s selection.
Mitch Thornton is a professor at SMU’s Lyle School of Engineering. He works with state engineering boards across the country, and says this is a matter of public safety. “Requiring licensure is a means for the public to have some confidence that the firm or people they’re hiring areq qualified to do the work. therefore, the work product will be safe.”
If Wai-Wize didn’t have a licensed engineer on staff, and wasn’t licensed by the state at the time it applied for the work, in May 2006, why was it judged to be most qualified?
Thornton says, “by law, they’re not. they need to be licensed.” The Board of Professional Engineers says many firms don’t know the state law.
A spokeswoman for DARTs general contractor says when Wai-Wize submitted it’s qualifications, it said the work would be done by a licensed engineer. The contractor insists “all …work… by Wai-Wize has been performed by a qualified professional engineer duly licensed in Texas…”
Records show in late August 2006, three months after they applied for work, Wai-Wize had a licensed engineer on staff and registered with the state. Wai-Wize paid a $250 administrative penalty.
Company President Duke Hamilton hasn’t returned repeated phone calls by CBS 11. The general contractor says it has paid Wai-Wize more than $3 million so far. In the next two weeks, DART will likely approve extending the company’s contract. Wai-Wize would receive $471,632 for the ongoing radio project.