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Former Oregon Department of Transportation official pleads guilty to misconduct charges

Prineville resident faces fines, court fees of $1,070.
Jerry Baggett, former manager of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Prineville maintenance operation, pleaded guilty in Crook County Circuit Court on Dec. 14 to two counts of first degree official misconduct.
   Official misconduct is a Class A misdemeanor.
   The maximum penalty is one year in jail and a $5,000 fine.
   However, Baggett, 50, will pay a total amount of $1,070 in fines and court fees. The Prineville resident pleaded guilty to two counts of official misconduct, which involved him granting contracts to his son, Lee Baggett, 31.
   This violated ODOT rules and regulations regarding granting contracts.
   "(Lee Baggett) utilized friends and relatives to set up four companies. I call them paper companies," explained Crook County District Attorney Gary Williams.
   "(His son) purchased heavy equipment and leased or rented the heavy equipment to ODOT through the four paper companies, thereby disguising the fact that Jerry Baggett was obtaining the equipment from his son," he continued.
   According to reports, from 1998 until June 2002, Baggett awarded approximately $277,000 worth of contracts to his son's companies.
   The district attorney said that the four rental companies were created "for the sole reason of hiding the fact that Lee Baggett was leasing heavy equipment to ODOT through contracts with Jerry Baggett."
   Lee Baggett does not face any criminal charges.
   "His son didn't violate the criminal law in this activity as far as I can tell and as far as the state police investigation revealed," said Williams.
   Baggett was fired from ODOT's Prineville annex in 2002.
   His attorney, Greg Lynch, was recently quoted in the Oregonian saying, "He saw a compelling need for projects, and there was no money to do them..."
   "He found a way to do them. Was it good judgment to do it that way? No. Was it criminal? No. Did he benefit the general public? Indeed he did," according to attorney Greg Lynch.
   The state ethics commission is also investigating Baggett)s contracts.