Top California high-speed rail executive under investigation in ethics probe

A top consultant for California’s controversial high-speed rail project is under investigation after he modified a multi-million dollar contract that involved a company in which he may have held more than $100,000 in stock.

At the request of California state Assemblyman Jim Patterson, a Republican and major critic of the bullet train project, the Fair Political Practices Commission launched an investigation last week into the deputy chief operating officer for the California High-Speed Rail Authority, Roy Hill.

Hill, who is also a senior executive at the lead consulting firm WSP, signed a $51-million change order for the construction team led by the Spanish firm Dragados. Hill, however, may have also owned more than $100,000 stock in Jacobs Engineering, which is part of the Dragados team, according to the Los Angeles Times.

WSP suspended Hill on Monday at the direction of the rail authority. Hill will remain suspended until the investigation is resolved.

“We hold ourselves to the highest ethical standards,” Denise Turner Roth, chief development officer for WSP USA, said in a statement. “We take these allegations seriously, and will cooperate fully with the investigation. Mr. Hill has been temporarily suspended while this matter is reviewed.”

The investigation into Hill marks another setback for the controversial rail project, which California Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed to plow forward with earlier this year – albeit in a reduced capacity. …

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