Sylva-- A local state Department of Transportation employee was recently suspended for a week without pay following a state audit that found cost overruns and other problems in DOT's Division 14.
The audit report said the employee did not fully disclose a conflict of interest.
The suspension of Wanda Austin, who works out of Division 14 headquarters in Sylva, began July 6, DOT spokeswoman Julia Casadonte said. Austin selects equipment rental contractors for the division.
A report from the Office of State Auditor released June 29 said Austin should have disclosed that she did paid work on the side for the owner of the company that got nearly half the division's equipment rental business from 2008-10.
The report said the auditors' investigation did not reveal whether the company, Waynesville Caroline-A-Contracting, received any preference as a result of the relationship.
It said Caroline-A-Contracting's large share of Division 14's business - about $8.5 million over the three-year period - may have been because the company is one of the largest equipment suppliers in the area and may have had more equipment readily available than other companies.
However, the report said, "the existence of an undisclosed business relationship ... created the perception that inappropriate preference was given."
It said Austin filled out forms seeking permission to do outside engineering work but did not indicate on the forms that the work presented a potential or actual conflict of interest.
Austin declined comment when contacted by the Citizen-Times.
Her annual pay is listed at $67,800.
The June 29 report found poor management, cost overruns, questionable purchases, and possibly outright fraud in Division 14, primarily in its Haywood County operations. The division covers 10 Western North Carolina counties.
Two other DOT employees had already been disciplined in connection with the findings, the report said.