THE Legislative Auditor issued a report Tuesday that said officials in charge of installing communications towers did not comply with state purchasing laws.
State emergency services communications director Joe Gonzales, homeland security director Jimmy Gianato and members of a team charged with dispersing grant funds oversaw or committed the illegal acts, said Legislative Auditor Aaron Allred.
Funding for the towers came from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009, known as the Stimulus Package. That $787 billion act, paid for by taxpayers of today, as well as their kids and grandkids, delivered money across the United States as part of a Keynesian effort to stimulate the nation's recessed economy.
Of the billions of dollars the Democratic majority in Congress tossed about the country like candy, $126 million came to West Virginia through the ARRA-funded Broadband Technology Opportunities Program.
The improper use of funds is added to the $15 million or so overspent on oversized and unneeded routers as part of the same broadband grant, the Legislative Auditor reported last year.
That's not to say West Virginia does not benefit from having a nice new communications network.
The network improves the ability of the state's emergency responders and saves lives, according to U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was governor when the project was started.
And schools, libraries, hospitals and more are benefitting from high-speed Internet access.
The problem is the officials charged with building the network neglected to follow the law. The procurement procedures are there to protect the taxpaying public, no matter if the money is from state or federal coffers.
There are multiple arguments as to how well or whether the federal package actually stimulated the economy, but it did stimulate some errant and bungled spending programs in West Virginia.
Having a huge "shovel-ready" federal grant for a project is no excuse to disregard state laws designed to protect taxpayers.
A criminal investigation is in order.