Williamsport engineer-in-training visited by state investigator

Mark Benner, the city engineer-in-training who is paid an annual salary of $61,000, was away on state National Guard duty Friday when an investigator came to his office at the city streets and parks department.

The investigator was with the state Department of State’s Bureau of Enforcement and Investigation and wanted to speak with Benner, according to Adam Winder, department general manager.

The investigator was told Benner was away in the military. The agent said he would return to speak with Benner next week. He said the investigation was “nothing to be concerned about,” Winder said.

“I don’t know what you are talking about,” Mayor Gabriel J. Campana said.

The Department of State investigates professional engineer licensing, according to a department spokeswoman reached Friday at the Harrisburg bureau.

Benner has a deadline of five years to obtain a professional engineering license, according to a former city engineer speaking about the requirement.

He joined as engineer-in-training on May 24. Engineers-in-training also must work and provide proof of tutelage under a professional engineer for five years, according to a retired city engineer who asked to remain anonymous.

The mayor was upset by the state agency probing his choice for engineer.

“Why is it (the investigation) happening prior to the general election vote and not mentioned when a prior engineer trainee had the same schooling?” Campana asked.

“Why wasn’t the question brought up two years ago when we had another engineer-in-training with the same training and not as much experience?” he asked.

The mayor made a unilateral decision to hire Benner and didn’t keep City Council informed of the decision.

Council had concerns because Benner was not a professional engineer and it might cost more to bring in a professional to sign-off and work on critical projects.

As a former employee, Benner was banned for a year from working on, or helping to decide on, any state Department of Transportation projects. Benner worked for 29 years at the department and is bound ethically not to work with PennDOT for 365 days. He joined in June.

Retired city engineer John Grado has worked part time — roughly a day a week — with Benner.

James Campbell, an engineer with Rettew, also has worked, in part, with Benner.

To obtain the engineering degree, trainees must work a certain amount of hours under a professional engineer and obtain 24 school credits every two years to renew the license application.

Grado worked for PennDOT for five years while he was an engineer-in-training. He then took a second part of the examination while working for the city, according to a city employee.

Benner might be getting informed about the requirements he must provide the department as he pursues his engineering license, a city employee said.