Ramsey County prosecutors declined to file felony theft charges against Sonia Pitt, former director of homeland security and emergencyat the Minnesota Department of Transportation (MnDOT), finding her conduct in the wake of the deadly I-35W bridge collapse objectionable, but not criminal.
“A bad employee takes advantage of lax supervision to maximize benefits of their job, such as travel upgrades, meals paid, things like that,” County Attorney Susan Gaertner told the Associated Press. “A criminal knows they’re not entitled to those benefits and takes them anyway. We didn’t have proof of the latter.”
In the critical days following the bridge collapse, Pitt extended a business trip to Boston into an unauthorized trip to Washington, D.C.
Pitt argued that she did her job from Washington, but the department said she neglected her duties. A legislative audit later indicated that Pitt had improperly charged at least $26,000 in unauthorized travel and goods and services.
The state fired Pitt in 2007 for the alleged misconduct.
In an interview with KMSP-TV, Pitt said she had tried to start over by moving “half a country away” to Washington, D.C., where she found a job with the federal Transportation Security Administration.
The agency fired her, however, after learning the circumstances of her dismissal from MnDOT.
In response to her case, state Reps. Ryan Winkler and Steve Simon have proposed a bill to make misuse of public resources a crime punishable by up to a year in prison and $3,000 in fines.