CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A state agency paid a Virginia-based company an estimated $118,000 to review West Virginia's use of $126.3 million in federal stimulus funds to expand high-speed Internet, but Gov. Earl Ray Tomblin's administration won't release the consultant's findings to the public.
The reason: At least one of the consultant's documents might be "embarrassing to some people," according to Commerce Secretary Keith Burdette.
"The documents may be embarrassing to some people . . . . Embarrassing because it was someone's opinion," Burdette said. "It was a specific document, citing specific companies, and making very specific suggestions to me."
Burdette disclosed the existence of the consultant's document -- titled Draft Discussion Points -- in response to a Freedom of Information request filed by The Charleston Gazette. However, he declined to release the report to the newspaper, saying it was an "internal memorandum" that could be withheld under state law.
"It was part of a discussion. It did not result in an end product," Burdette said. "There's some criticism of the players in there that I don't accept."
The state of West Virginia has worked with a number of companies on the broadband expansion project. Frontier Communications has received the bulk of the stimulus funds to build fiber cable to public facilities across the state. Other companies paid through the project include Verizon and Cisco.
Burdette declined to say which "players" the consultant's five-page report could potentially embarrass. However, he said the document doesn't point fingers at Tomblin's office.
"There's not a word in there about the actions of the administration," Burdette said. "It's not about exposing anything we did."
Last year, the Commerce Department hired Vienna, Va.-based ICF International to review the state's broadband projects and programs, including a $126.3 million project that's come under scrutiny by state and federal audits.
In August, ICF delivered a 130-page document titled "Assessment Report of Selected Broadband Projects in the State of West Virginia." The report, which cost the state about $10,000, excluded the state's stimulus-funded $126.3 million project -- by far West Virginia's largest broadband project.
Burdette said the stimulus project was left out because the "selected broadband projects" report was prepared for the Commerce Department. Most documents about the $126.3 million project were sent to the governor's office, he said.
"I put all of the [federal broadband] project-related work back to the governor's office," he said. "The governor's office was managing the program."
Burdette said he asked ICF to provide him with information about the broadband project before a meeting last spring.
"I had the memo drafted, but I didn't use it," Burdette said. "It was assumptions and making recommendations. At the end of the day, I didn't agree with their assessment."