West Virginia Ambulance Director under Investigation

Boone County Ambulance Authority Director Randy Lengyel, who’s under investigation for accepting an illegal $103,000 loan from his board, collects $30,000 in extra pay each year as a part-time consultant for the state Water Development Authority.

That has led some ambulance board members to question how Lengyel manages to juggle his time between the two taxpayer-funded positions. Lengyel makes $67,000 a year as ambulance director. His state-consulting job pays $30 an hour.

“It’s something that needs to be looked into, said George Parsons, a Boone County Ambulance Authority board member. “I’m not sure how he accumulates all his comp time. He’s off anytime he wants to be off.

Last month, Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Keith Randolph directed Lengyel to pay back the illegal loan by Sept. 30 – or face possible ethics charges. Lengyel used the zero-interest personal loan to enhance his retirement benefits.

The state Legislature’s Commission on Special Investigations started investigating Lengyel four months ago.

In addition to his ambulance director’s pay, Lengyel has collected $146,280 in consulting fees from the West Virginia Water Development Authority, a state agency that manages loans for public service districts and municipalities across the state, authority director Chris Jarrett confirmed last week.

Lengyel helps the Water Development Authority file complaints against water and sewer utilities that fall behind on bond payments. He calculates surcharges that utilities must add to customers’ bills to catch up on those debt payments. Lengyel often testifies on behalf of the Water Development Authority on matters before the state Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities.

“Randy is an exceptional employee, Jarrett said. “He’s a very knowledgeable guy. He does a very good job for me.

Before taking the ambulance director job in Boone County, Lengyel worked as a full-time employee at the Water Development Authority from 2002 to 2008. After leaving, Lengyel signed on as a consultant.

He worked sparingly the first two years, but his fees reached $30,240 in 2013. He now works about 20 hours a week for the Water Development Authority, and has received $19,740 so far this year.

Jarrett said it would cost significantly more to hire a full-time employee with Lengyel’s skill set.

“I have a very small staff, Jarrett said. “No one else has the knowledge to go out there and do what Randy does. I can’t buy that.

Over the past seven years, the Water Development Authority has taken a tough stand against local utilities that fall behind on bond payments, Jarrett said. Statewide, those missed debt payments have dropped from $1.8 million to $182,000, he said.

“This was strictly geared to Randy’s efforts, Jarrett said. “It’s not a full-time, 40-hour a week job, but it’s a very important job.

In September 2013, Lengyel persuaded ambulance authority board members to loan him $103,000 so he could switch from the West Virginia state employees retirement plan to more lucrative plan set up for emergency medical service workers. Under the loan’s terms – which the board never voted on – Lengyel agreed to pay off the no-interest loan in monthly installments of $350 after he retired.

In a July 31 letter, Randolph, the Boone County prosecutor, notified Lengyel that the loan was illegal. Randolph said he could refer the ambulance authority investigation to a Boone County grand jury or the state Ethics Commission. Randolph added that he would file a “civil action to void the authority’s loan, if Lengyel doesn’t pay it back.

Lengyel has denied any wrongdoing. He did not respond to a request for comment last week about his consulting work with the Water Development Authority.

Reach Eric Eyre at ericeyre@wvgazette.com, 304-348-4869 or follow @ericeyre on Twitter.

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