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Transit project using consultant who pleaded guilty to fraud

November 29, 2018

DURHAM, N.C. (AP) — A North Carolina light-rail transit project is using a consultant who pleaded guilty in September to a fraud charge linked to his work as chief executive of an Arizona mass transit system.

The Herald-Sun of Durham reports the Durham-Orange Light Rail Transit project is using Stephen Banta, who pleaded guilty after Arizona’s Office of the Auditor General released a report saying he claimed that $32,000 in personal travel, meal and alcohol costs for him and his wife were expenses related to his work.

Banta, the former chief executive of metro Phoenix’s mass transit system, was sentenced to two years of probation and fined $5,000.

John Tallmadge, interim light-rail project manager for GoTriangle, said the agency knew about Banta’s charges when they hired him as a subcontractor.

Banta’s role as rail operations manager is to make sure “as the light rail is being designed, we are not only considering the constructability but how can it be operated in an efficient manner,” Tallmadge said.

“I think this is a non-issue, not related to any of the work he’s doing for us,” Tallmadge said. He dismissed it as “gossip.”

Banta’s attorney said at the time his client admitted improperly claiming $3,200 in personal meals as business expenses.

As part of the plea agreement, prosecutors agreed not to file additional charges arising out of the findings from the auditor’s report.

Banta resigned as Valley Metro’s chief executive in late 2015 after The Arizona Republic reported that he incurred thousands of dollars of questionable expenses paid with public money.

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Information from: The Herald-Sun, http://www.herald-sun.com

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