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State report says chief violated bidding laws

State investigators say former East Bridgewater fire chief Ryon Pratt, who left the job following the town’s controversial 2011 “Snowgate” incident, violated state laws when hiring a contractor to replace the fire station’s roof in 2007. 

“Instead of soliciting competitive bids for the roofing project, the fire chief hired a favored vendor to do the work,” the investigators said in a report recently released by the state inspector general’s office. Documents were faked after the new roof was already on to make it look like the bidding process had been followed, they said.

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Pratt hired Brian Healey, owner of Brian Healey Contractor Inc., who was paid $31,480 for the roof work. Jobs of that size must undergo a public bidding process.

Pratt came under fire in 2011 for also hiring Healey to clear snow from school roofs without following the state’s bidding laws. The controversy became known as “Snowgate” and ultimately led to the chief’s signing a settlement with the town and leaving his job earlier this year. Pratt could not be reached for comment on the inspector general’s report, and Healey declined to comment.

During its investigation of the 2007 roof replacement, which was done after the roof was damaged in a snowstorm, the inspector general’s office reviewed the bid documents and interviewed Healey and other contractors listed as bidders.

The report said Healey’s subcontractor, Bruce Whittemore of Sunrise Roofing, had asked another company to submit a proposal for the job “to create the impression” the town had followed state procurement requirements. William Cara-Donna of Cara-Donna Copper & Slate Co. told investigators “he never intended” to do the roof work.

G. Arthur Moberg & Son also submitted a proposal, but state investigators said Healey and Stephen Moberg knew each other. Healey was a former employee and the two had worked together as contractors.

Pratt filed a “price quote sheet,” with bid proposals from the companies, several days after the roof had been replaced, the investigators said.

Whittemore, Cara-Donna, and Moberg did not return calls from the Globe.

The inspector general’s report concluded the contract for the new roof “was marred by a disregard for public procurement law, apparent collusion among contractors, the fabrication of documents to disguise the improper award and a possible criminal violation.”

The report said both Pratt and Healey appear to have violated state bidding laws by submitting false material. Jack Meyers, spokesman for the inspector general, said his agency does not disclose whether it has turned over its findings to an agency that might pursue charges.

On its list of recommendations, state officials suggested the town bar Healey from future town projects and possibly Whittemore and Cara-Donna as well.

The state suggested town employees who award contracts for municipal services undergo training.

Town Administrator George Samia, the town’s chief procurement officer, is responsible for all contracts. He was involved in the decision to replace the fire station roof rather than repair it in 2007, but was not mentioned as a responsible party for the faulty bid process. Samia did not return several calls seeking comment.

Selectman Brian Connors, who called the 2007 incident “water under the bridge” since the fire chief no longer works for the town, said the board will probably discuss the report at Monday’s meeting.

Christine Legere can be reached at christinelegere@yahoo.com.
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