The top procurement official at the State Highway Administration has left the agency just five months after the release of a harshly critical legislative audit of the agency that criticized the agency's performance in the awarding of contracts.
The SHA announced the departure of Robert P. Gay, director of the SHA's Office of Procurement, in an email to staff Monday. Gay, a state employee since 1975, earned $92,950 a year. SHA officials, saying they are restricted from commenting on personnel matters under state law, gave no explanation.
But Gay, reached at his home in Harford County, confirmed his departure. He did not give details of the reasons he left but said "it's in line with all the audit stuff."
The wording of the announcement by Deputy Administrator Cheryl R. B. Hill was terse, giving no indication that the departure was a retirement. Here is the email:
This e-mail is to advise you that, as of today, Robert (Bob) P. Gay is no longer at SHA. Any procurement-related issues previously handled by Bob should be forwarded to Norie Calvert. Norie is serving as Acting Director of the Office of Procurement and Contracts until recruitment is completed and the position is filled. Small procurements will continue to be handled by Carole Zentz who reports to the Director of the Office of Procurement and Contracts.
SHA's procurement operation is one of the areas that came under scrutiny in the same audit whose release immediately followed the announcement of former Administrator Neil J. Pedersen's unexpected departure as of June 30. Legislative auditors found evidence of a revolving door in which former SHA officials were routinely hired by agency contractors -- and in one case became involved in a procurement he had previously worked on at the agency.
Acting SHA Administrator Darrell Mobley indicated in August that further changes were coming. On Wednesday he declined to answer any questions about the circumstances of Gay's departure. Nor would he comment on whether the agency had seen a draft of an expected second audit of the agency.
Gay said he will remain on administrative leave until Nov. 21 and is "weighing my options" and "glad to be out of there." He did not elaborate.
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