Legislative Auditor Jim Nobles said Tuesday that his office will not seek gross-misdemeanor or misdemeanor charges against Sonia Morphew Pitt, the former emergency management director for the Minnesota Department of Transportation who was accused of taking personal trips with state money and staying out of the state for 10 days after the Interstate 35W bridge collapse.
In a letter to St. Paul City Attorney John Choi, Nobles said, "A significant amount of public money was spent by the state of Minnesota to investigate and discharge Ms. Pitt. ... While your office clearly has the prerogative to act within the bounds of its authority without a request from me, I think it is time for the Sonia Pitt case to be closed."
Choi said his office considers the matter closed.
Pitt, 44, was fired from MnDOT on Nov. 7, 2007, after a scathing internal report detailed a state-paid vacation flight to Las Vegas, unauthorized flights to Washington, D.C., and a finding that she made frequent, lengthy personal calls to a male friend at the Federal Highway Administration on her MnDOT cell phone during work hours.
A legislative audit released Nov. 28, 2007, said Pitt had received $26,000 in expenses she was not due or for work she did not perform, and it asked state and local officials to go to court to obtain the money and possibly bring criminal charges.
Twelve days ago, the Ramsey County Attorney's office announced that it would not bring felony charges against Pitt, saying, "Based on our investigation and review of reports and documents ... we do not believe we can sustain our burden of proof beyond a reasonable doubt as to potential felony charges."
Pitt's supervisors routinely approved her timesheets and expense reports, and she often worked more than 40 hours a week, including nights and weekends, making it difficult to prove allegations about her time sheets or hours, the County Attorney's office said.
In his letter to Choi, Nobles said he agreed with the judgment of the County Attorney's office "that deficiencies and ambiguities in MnDOT's policies and supervision practices would make it difficult to sustain a criminal charge against Ms. Pitt."
Pat Pheifer • 651-298-1551