DOT Employee Pleads No Contest to Taking Bribes From Contractors

Thu August 19, 2004 - Northeast Edition

HARTFORD (AP) A state Department of Transportation (DOT) inspector pleaded no contest Aug. 10 to charges of taking bribes from contractors in exchange for overlooking shoddy work and whether work permits were valid, a prosecutor said.

James Murray, of Watertown, entered the pleas in Bantam Superior Court to three counts of taking bribes, said Harry Weller, supervisory assistant state’s attorney. The plea is part of an agreement in which Murray is expected to be sentenced on Oct. 19 to a suspended prison sentence, three years probation and house arrest for six months, Weller said.

State police originally charged Murray with six counts of bribe receiving.

Officials began an investigation last year after a tip from a DOT employee who worked with Murray in the agency’s maintenance office in Thomaston. The employee claimed Murray had received $1,000 from a contractor in order to allow work to go forward, according to an arrest warrant affidavit.

Further investigation showed that Murray took cash ranging from $100 to approximately $1,900 from six contractors, the affidavit said.

Murray gave a written statement to state police saying that he borrowed money from friends because he had high alimony and child support payments, as well as a severe gambling problem. He said that in return for the money, “I would not always be available to inspect the work.”

The Public Integrity Bureau of the chief state’s attorney’s office investigated the case.

Murray acknowledged taking money from some owners of Birm 1 Construction in Ansonia, Advanced Communications in Waterbury, Carl Geary and Sons Inc. in Waterbury, Matty’s Paving in Watertown, Complete Construction in Cromwell, Brass City Paving in Waterbury and Elite Paving and Excavation in Thomaston, the affidavit said.

Several contractors told investigators they gave Murray loans and denied expecting anything in return, court papers said.

No charges are expected to be brought against the contractors.