Coffman calls for criminal probe of Aurora VA hospital project

“If the VA has uncovered any evidence of criminal activity in the course of this investigation, that information must be swiftly turned over to relevant law enforcement officials so that we can finally get some answers and American veterans and taxpayers can finally get the accountability they deserve,” Rice said.

AURORA | U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, has joined another member of Congress in calling for a criminal probe of the Veterans Affairs hospital construction project in Aurora.

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2012 file photo, Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Colo. speaks in Denver.
Rep. Mike Coffman

In a letter Wednesday to VA deputy inspector general Linda Halliday and VA Office of Accountability Review director Michael Culpepper, Coffman and Rep. Kathleen Rice, D-N.Y., asked for the respective offices “to make appropriate criminal referrals to law enforcement” regarding the cost overruns and mismanagement on the Aurora project.

The letter comes about a week after Coffman pressed for the full release of the VA’s Administrative Investigation Board findings on the Aurora VA hospital project, which has been delayed and only released in a summarized vesion to Congress.

Specifically, Coffman and Rice want a review of the AIB report and seek to have criminal referrals made — if “necessary and appropriate” — regarding VA officials who provided “knowingly inaccurate testimony” before Congress.

“The American taxpayers deserve answers. The mismanagement and cost overruns of the Aurora VA hospital are outrageous. At the least, I believe that a number of these VA employees knowingly lied to my subcommittee and other congressional committees about the project’s problems,” Coffman said. “I expect the Veterans Affairs Office of Accountability Review and the Office of the Inspector General to do their job and see if any of these VA officials committed criminal acts as the cost skyrocketed from $604 million to $1.73 billion.”

The AIB report’s summary states that the VA officials responsible for the ballooning cost of the Aurora construction project have either retired or left the VA. Coffman has been vocal in recent years regarding perfomance bonuses and pensions collected by those officials.

“As a former prosecutor, this project has struck me since day one as a case that’s ripe for criminal review, given the outrageous scope of the cost overruns and the VA’s repeated refusal to provide our subcommittee with details about what caused them and who is responsible,” Rice said in a statement. “Now that the VA has finally given us a summary of the AIB report and announced that they intend to take no additional actions as a result of the investigation, we still have yet to see anyone be held truly accountable for the actions and decisions that caused this project to more than double in cost. We still don’t know whether this was a case of incompetence and mismanagement, wasteful spending or theft – but regardless, it cannot be swept under the rug.

VA Construction

A view of the upcoming Veteran's Administration on Feb. 7 at East Colfax Avenue and I-225. Consrtuction at the new VA Hospital complex remains to have no set date for project completion. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)

20150701-VA Hospital-Aurora, Colorado

VA Deputy Secretary Sloan Gibson visited the Veterans Hospital site on Wednesday. The VA is asking Congress for $625 million more to complete a slightly scaled-back version. Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel

VA Construction

Construction continues April 24 at the new VA Hospital near East Colfax Avenue and I-225. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he was disappointed to hear that construction might be delayed on the Veterans Affairs Hospital. However, VA officials said the hospital could still start seeing patients in October 2015 while construction is finishing up. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

20150424-VA Hospital Presser-Aurora, Colorado

Senator Cory Gardner, surrounded by other lawmakers, addresses the press after a tour of the VA Hospital on Friday. (Photo by Gabriel Christus/Aurora Sentinel)

US Veterans Hospitals Construction Chief

File - In this April 22, 2014 file photo, a man works on a concrete form during construction of a new Veterans Administration hospital in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo. The VA said its top construction official has retired amid an internal investigation of delays and massive cost overruns at the Denver veterans hospital, and said Wednesday, March 25, 2015, that Glenn Haggstrom's departure was immediate. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, File) MAGS OUT; TV OUT; INTERNET OUT; NO SALES; NEW YORK POST OUT; NEW YORK DAILY NEWS OUT

US Veterans Hospitals Construction Chief

In this April 22, 2014 file photo, a man works on a facade during construction of a new Veterans Administration hospital in the Denver suburb of Aurora, Colo. The VA said its top construction official has retired amid an internal investigation of delays and massive cost overruns at the Denver veterans hospital, and said Wednesday, March 25, 2015, that Glenn Haggstrom's departure was immediate. (AP Photo/The Denver Post, RJ Sangosti, File)

VA Hospital: Construction on Hold

Construction workers pack up their personal tools Thursday morning at the over-budget Denver VA Medical Replacement Project site near Interstate 225 and East Colfax Avenue in Aurora. The project is currently on hold after a federal board of appeals ruled that the VA had breached its contract. Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman said Colorado delegates were working to keep Kiewit-Turner as the contractor for the hospital so that the 1400 people who were laid off can come back to work. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

VA Hospital: Construction on Hold

The over-budget Denver VA Medical Replacement Project is currently on hold after a federal board of appeals ruled that the VA had breached its contract. Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman said Colorado delegates were working to keep Kiewit-Turner as the contractor for the hospital so that the 1400 people who were laid off can come back to work. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

VA Hospital: Construction on Hold

Construction workers pack up their personal tools Thursday morning at the over-budget Denver VA Medical Replacement Project site near Interstate 225 and East Colfax Avenue in Aurora. The project is currently on hold after a federal board of appeals ruled that the VA had breached its contract. Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman said Colorado delegates were working to keep Kiewit-Turner as the contractor for the hospital so that the 1400 people who were laid off can come back to work. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

VA Hospital: Construction on Hold

Construction workers pack up their personal tools Thursday morning at the over-budget Denver VA Medical Replacement Project site near Interstate 225 and East Colfax Avenue in Aurora. The project is currently on hold after a federal board of appeals ruled that the VA had breached its contract. Aurora Congressman Mike Coffman said Colorado delegates were working to keep Kiewit-Turner as the contractor for the hospital so that the 1400 people who were laid off can come back to work. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

VA Construction

A view of the upcoming Veteran's Administration at East Colfax Avenue and I-225 on April 25. Consrtuction at the new VA Hospital complex remains to have no set date for project completion. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)

VA Construction

A view of the upcoming Veteran's Administration at East Colfax Avenue and I-225 on April 25. Consrtuction at the new VA Hospital complex remains to have no set date for project completion. (Courtland Wilson/ Aurora Sentinel)

VA Construction

Construction continues April 24 at the new VA Hospital near East Colfax Avenue and I-225. U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman, R-Aurora, said he was disappointed to hear that construction might be delayed on the Veterans Affairs Hospital. However, VA officials said the hospital could still start seeing patients in October 2015 while construction is finishing up. (Marla R. Keown/Aurora Sentinel)

“If the VA has uncovered any evidence of criminal activity in the course of this investigation, that information must be swiftly turned over to relevant law enforcement officials so that we can finally get some answers and American veterans and taxpayers can finally get the accountability they deserve,” Rice said.

Coffman and Rice’s letter cites five separate hearings between March 2012 and April 2014 in which they believe that witnesses for the VA “presented what appears to have been a knowingly inacccurate picture of the Aurora project.”

The letter also singled out former VA construction executive Glenn Haggstrom’s April 22, 2014, field hearing in Aurora, for claiming the “VA has the funds necessary to complete this project” when there was already evidence that the project’s cost would be rising. Coffman and Rice went as far as to label Haggstrom’s assertions “misleading” and “made deliberately and in bad faith.”

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