Frontier Communications engineer Mark Mackenzie lists his current job title as "lead project manager" for the $126.3 million project, according to his online résumé at LinkedIn. Frontier is building the fiber network.
An Office of Technology administrator, Nick Patel, also holds the title of "project manager" on the state's broadband project, according to Patel's LinkedIn profile.
Patel's job duties seem to mirror those spelled out in Rios' contract.
"Currently working as project manager for the state of West Virginia that was awarded stimulus funding," Patel wrote. "As a project manager, I was accountable for managing teams of vendors throughout the state coordinating project estimates, approvals, budgets and resources to ensure projects are on time and within budget."
Patel goes on: "As project manager for this large fiber deployment project and router deployment, I am also responsible for router deployment and distribution."
Rios' job title differs on various documents.
An organizational chart lists Rios as "grant engineering project manager." His contract describes him as "senior professional services project manager," and Verizon invoices list his title simply as "project manager."
Asked to describe Rios' role, Given said, "Perry Rios is a project planner for the state's fiber and router deployment portion of the grant."Consultant contract pays up to $250 an hour
In 2007, the state signed a contract with Verizon Business to upgrade the state's Internet network that served state agencies. The following year, the state technology office used the contract to pay Verizon $230,000 to design the network.
The contract wasn't tapped again until July 2010, after the state received the $126.3 million federal stimulus grant.
The state has used the contract mostly for broadband project expenses since then -- with the bulk of payments, $5.7 million, going to Frontier to build the fiber network to public facilities. The state Treasurer's Office, Division of Motor Vehicles and Lottery Commission also have paid Verizon for services under the contract during the past year.
The state used the same contract to pay the consultants hired through Verizon.
The 2007 contract allows the state to pay Verizon personnel up to $250 an hour for "IP telephony professional services." Internet protocol telephony uses the Internet to exchange voice, fax and other forms of communication traditionally carried over phone lines.
Rios and the four other Verizon consultants working on the West Virginia broadband project aren't doing any work on such a communication system, and their contracts mention nothing about Internet protocol telephony.
Verizon used an outside consulting firm that recommended candidates for the broadband consulting jobs, while Office of Technology staff members interviewed and selected the consultants.
"West Virginia asked Verizon to recommend a slate of technical experts," Irland said. "The company did so, presenting a list of both internal and external candidates to the state for final selection."
Rios and the other consultants hired through Verizon haven't spoken or delivered reports at any public meetings, such as the monthly Broadband Deployment Council meeting. The Gazette obtained the consultants' invoices -- and totaled them -- after filing a Freedom of Information Act request.
Rios' 2010 contract limited total charges to $564,000. His latest contract has a $407,000 limit. Rios has not exceeded those caps.
"Projects such as the state of West Virginia's broadband expansion project require technical experts with specialized [skill] sets to help ensure successful implementation," Irland said. "In the case of the state's broadband project, specific project management and engineering skill sets were needed to meet program requirements."
West Virginia's broadband project budget, which was submitted to the federal government, doesn't mention the hiring of "project managers." But the budget sets aside $900,000 for "high-level engineering ... likely via contract."
State officials said the $1.3 million spent on the Verizon consultants wouldn't hamper the broadband expansion project. The state expects to finish the $126.3 project with $9 million in leftover funds. The state has until Jan. 31 to spend the stimulus money, or risk having to return unspent funds to the federal government.
"The total engineering amount has not been exceeded," Given said. "The $900,000 reflects a single budget line item. However, there remains sufficient budget funding [for] the oversight consultant, engineering and fiber engineering that will appropriately absorb all engineering costs associated with the project."
Reach Eric Eyre at erice...@wvgazette.com or (304) 348-4869.