Toomey seeks answers from VA as to decision to halt outpatient center in Butler
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.