The Washington Post is not naming the former employee because he has not been charged with a crime. As part of his job, he was responsible for overseeing maintenance of train stations.
A message left for the former employee was not returned Thursday, and there was a busy signal when calls to a number for his business were made.
Mark Roeber, a VRE spokesman, said that the arrangement under scrutiny involves a subcontractor who was hired as part of a five-year, $2.6 million contract for landscaping, trash removal and other maintenance work.
A copy of a subcontractor’s invoice obtained by The Post indicates that a $3,000 payment for “consulting services” was paid to a company owned by the former employee.
It is not clear whether the scope of the investigation extends beyond that payment. Andrew Ames, an FBI spokesman, declined to comment.
Roeber said VRE has cooperated with the FBI and state auditors investigating the matter. He said state and federal authorities also are looking into whether taxpayer dollars may have been misused.
“The [acting] CEO [Rich Dalton] has been very aggressive in making sure that we’re working in unison with the commonwealth as well as the FBI to give them the documentation that they need,” Roeber said.
Roeber said the agency also is examining its contracting procedures to “look for ways to improve the system.”
VRE is controlled by the Northern Virginia Transportation Commission and the Potomac and Rappahannock Transportation Commission. Its two rail lines, which connect Prince William and Stafford counties and downtown Washington, carry an average of 16,000 passengers a day, its Web site says.
The state and federal investigations were sparked by a March e-mail sent to area officials and signed “A Very Concerned VRE Patron.”
The one-page e-mail, which was obtained by The Post, says there was “unsavory practice in the contract procurement procedure” and outlines a “kickback” scheme involving the employee. The e-mail also expresses additional concerns about the agency and the employee.
Thelma Drake, a former member of Congress who serves as director of the Virginia Department of Rail and Public Transportation, said that her agency launched an audit based on the e-mail. She said state officials stepped aside when they learned about the FBI investigation and will conclude after federal authorities wrap up.
Drake said auditors will look at, in part, whether the contracts should have been given to others. “You could make the assumption that the service could have been provided for less money,” Drake said. “We aren’t going to know until the whole thing is resolved.”