FORMER FEDERAL MANAGER SENTENCED TO HOME DETENTION FOR CRIMINAL CONFLICT OF INTEREST
Vancouver Man Took Cash, Gifts and Negotiated Future Employment During Business Dealings with Supplier
WILLIAM R. MITTEN, 56, of Vancouver, Washington, was sentenced today to six months of home confinement and three years of supervised release in U.S. District Court in Tacoma for Conspiracy to Commit a Willful Criminal Conflict of Interest. In 2000, MITTEN was the Director of the National Center for Utilities Management (NCUM) for the General Services Administration. In that capacity he was responsible for purchases of natural gas for the heating and cooling of government facilities. The sentence was imposed by U.S. District Judge Franklin D. Burgess.
According to records filed with the court, MITTEN accepted improper gifts and negotiated future employment with a gas supplier, Tiger Natural Gas, Inc. of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Tiger was a primary contractor with both the Veterans Administration (VA) and the General Services Administration (GSA) providing them natural gas. MITTEN was responsible for overseeing those contracts.
As detailed in the plea agreement, in 1998, while he was Supervisory Public Utilities Specialist for GSA, MITTEN’s wife began working for Tiger on the very contract her husband was administering. Tiger paid MITTEN’s wife through a subsidiary in an attempt to hide the improper payment of nearly $8,000. In the fall of 2000, MITTEN negotiated with Tiger to open a new office for the company in the northwest. MITTEN discussed his future salary and training for future employees, many of whom were his co-workers at NCUM. MITTEN held meetings with some of these future employees and their spouses to discuss future salaries as employees of Tiger. As MITTEN continued to negotiate the employment deal, Tiger gave his wife cash gifts totaling $3,000.
MITTEN and other NCUM employees gave Tiger preferable treatment by allowing the company to avoid certain requirements of the government contract. MITTEN allowed Tiger to keep money that was supposed to be paid to GSA, and suggested Tiger falsely inflate its billing rate to build up a $650,000 cash reserve that could be used to open the new Tiger office in the northwest – the office MITTEN was supposed to run.
A whistleblower alerted the government to the improper relationship. MITTEN was suspended from his job and later fired. MITTEN did not become a Tiger employee. In a civil settlement, Tiger agreed to pay the government as much as $11 million for the unfair advantage it received though its relationship with MITTEN.
The case was investigated by the General Services Administration, Office of Inspector General (GSA-OIG), and was prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney David Reese Jennings.
For additional information please contact Emily Langlie, Public Affairs Officer for the United States Attorney’s Office, at (206) 553-4110.