ShareThis Page

Toomey seeks answers from VA as to decision to halt outpatient center in Butler

| Thursday, Sept. 19, 2013, 6:06 p.m.

A second federal legislator is asking the Department of Veterans Affairs to explain why the agency yanked a contract to build a $75 million outpatient center in Butler.

Sen. Pat Toomey, R-Lehigh Valley, sent a letter this week to VA Director Eric Shinseki saying he is “very disturbed” by revelations accusing Westar Development Corp. in Aurora, Ohio, of “false and misleading representations” during the bidding process for the outpatient center.

Toomey's letter asks the VA to reveal the alleged misrepresentations and why it took an investigation from the VA's Office of Inspector General to uncover them. The senator asked what the VA is doing to “avoid future lapses.”

Last week, Rep. Mike Kelly, R-Butler, issued similar demands and set an Oct. 4 deadline for the VA to respond. Kelly's office said Thursday it has not received a response.

The VA did not return a message on Thursday seeking comment about Toomey's letter, which did not set a deadline.

VA spokeswoman Josephine Schuda previously said her agency would not comment on Kelly's letter until it responded to the congressman directly.

On Aug. 9, the VA terminated the lease on the outpatient center. Westar was to build the center on land adjacent to the Butler Township campus, which the department agreed to rent for an average of $7.6 million a year for 20 years.

The VA announced it had stopped work June 21 based on the inspector general's investigation “of the prime contractor and certain company representatives.” It has not revealed any findings from the investigation.

Kelly asked the VA for a copy of the inspector general's report, and whether the VA plans to continue with the project. The VA has said it does.

On Monday, Butler Township officials extended approvals on land development for the project for three months at the request of Richard Bowen of Fine Lines Development Services in Wexford.

Bowen said he has been handling permitting requests for the project on behalf of Westar.

The Tribune-Review submitted a formal request in August to the VA for records related to the project. The newspaper is awaiting those records.

Bill Vidonic is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-380-5621 or bvidonic@tribweb.com.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.