Are Some Caltrans Employees Moonlighting On State Time?
STUDIO CITY (CBSLA.com) — We found a Caltrans employee spending hours at a private school that he owns – at the very same time he’s supposed to be earning your taxpayer money.
Another Caltrans employee is giving an estimate for a construction company that he owns while taking home a paycheck from the state.
We caught them both and wanted to know if they’re moonlighting on taxpayer money.
Gamal Tawfik works the day shift for Caltrans in Downey as a senior transportation engineer. He made more than $100,000 in taxpayer money last year.
But we discovered Tawfik is also executive director of the new Montessori School in La Puente, which he owns with his wife.
On March 14, we saw him arrive at the school at 11:16 in the morning. He had left the Caltrans office in Downey about a half hour earlier and drove 15 miles to the school in this red truck rented by Caltrans. That’s right, taxpayers are not only paying his salary, but gas and transportation.
Tawfik spent about two hours and ten minutes at the school. We then followed him as he went back to Caltrans after a more-than-three-hour break.
About a week later on March 20, we saw him arrive at his Downey office shortly before 10 a.m. He left about three hours later. We followed him to a strip mall around the corner from his Caltrans office. He parked the truck around the back. With our hidden cameras, we watched to see where he was going.
We don’t know what went on behind closed doors. The sign outside says “massage”. A spokesman for the Downey Police Department says vice officers have conducted three prostitution stings at the day spa – the most recent one last year.
We saw Tawfik leave about an hour later. He got back into his taxpayer-funded truck and again drove to his school, where our undercover producer met with him. First he said he and his wife were there often.
“We are here just to, kind of, you know, every other day,” he said.
“Oh, you come here every other day?” the producer asked.
Then he backtracked.
“Sometimes weeks go by and I am not here,” he said.
“Why should taxpayers pay for you to go to your own school?” Goldstein asked.
A few weeks later, we caught up with Tawfik.
“Presumably while you’re earning taxpayer money, you’re over at the school. Why is that?” Goldstein asked.
“Sir, you’re so desperate for a story. I have nothing to do with it, please,” Tawfik responded.
“But you’re driving a Caltrans-rented truck while you’re over at your own school?” Goldstein questioned.
“No, I am not,” Tawfik said.
He denied taking the truck, which we clearly caught him doing. Caltrans says it can only be used for government business. But we saw Tawfik using the taxpayer-funded truck to drop his daughter off at school, go shopping at T.J.Maxx, Lowe’s, The Salvation Army, and, of course, going to and from that day spa.
“Were you getting a massage on taxpayer money? Were you getting an erotic massage on taxpayer money?” Goldstein asked.
“Are you so desperate for a story?” Tawfik said.
“Sir, I can show you the video,” Goldstein replied.
He didn’t want to see it. Later, his attorney wrote us saying Tawfik was “seeking massage therapy for a low back condition.” And as far as the school, he said Mr. Tawfik and his wife own the school, but he has never worked there, nor has he received any salary or compensation. He has neither a second job, nor is he engaged in any form of “moonlighting.”
We also found Amir Kazemi. He’s a transportation engineer for Caltrans in San Bernardino and made almost $90,000 last year, but he also owns a construction company in Redlands.
On April 3, we watched him leave the Caltrans office in his own truck shortly after 10:30, then drive 30 minutes to Victorville and meet with our undercover producer.
“I appreciate you taking the time. I hope you weren’t too busy,” the producer said.
“No, no,” Kazemi said.
She had called for an estimate.
“We can do everything you want. It’s up to you what you like,” Kazemi said.
All totaled, he was away from his state job for just over two hours.
When Goldstein caught up with Kazemi, he denied being on the taxpayer’s dime.
“You are earning taxpayer money and you work for your own company?” Goldstein asked. “You’re moonlighting on taxpayer time?”
“No,” Kazemi replied.
“What do you mean ‘no?’” Goldstein asked.
He later sent Goldstein what he claims to be his time sheet. It shows that on that day he took an hour of annual leave – vacation time – to meet with us. The second hour, he said, was his lunch break.
But on April 4, we saw him leave the Caltrans office again for more than two hours and return with bales of hay, which he later admitted to Goldstein was not Caltrans-related.
His time sheet for that day shows he was supposed to be earning his taxpayer money all day.
We also found Caltrans employees who moonlight as realtors or own their own consulting company.
“If you’re on Caltrans time, you need to be doing Caltrans business,” Caltrans Deputy Director Will Shuck said.
Shuck says working a second job is fine, but not while you’re working for the state.
“The idea is you’re working for the taxpayers. You owe the taxpayers a days work if you’re going to charge then for a day’s pay,” he said.
But that’s not what we found with some Caltrans employees.
“You are supposed to be working for Caltrans, who collects taxpayer money. You’re moonlighting on taxpayer money, aren’t you?” Goldstein asked.
But may not be working a full day for the taxpayer.
— David Goldstein, CBS2 News