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The e-mails, written in January 2005, are between one of the members of the selection panel and Carrie Satterlee, the contract manager supervising the process.

The panel was just beginning to evaluate the design firms' proposals when the panel member, Maria Deeb-Roberge, e-mailed Satterlee asking for advice.

One of the firms -- a company then vying for selection -- wanted to set up a job interview with her.

"[T]hey want to talk to me to see how someone with my experience and degrees can fit in with their firm," Deeb-Roberge wrote. She thought they didn't even know she was on the selection panel, but she couldn't be sure.

To Deeb-Roberge's credit, she appears to have immediately understood that the interview offer could easily be construed as a way to rig the selection. She didn't want to do anything that "may have the appearance of improper behavior," Deeb-Roberge wrote, and asked Satterlee if she should take herself off the panel.

One week later, Deeb-Roberge did in fact remove herself from the panel, and ADOT tossed out her scores.

But it was not because ADOT's contract manager -- the person charged with spending millions of dollars of taxpayer money -- saw anything wrong with what happened. According to the e-mails, it was because Maria Deeb-Roberge decided, on her own, that the whole thing smelled bad.

As her response to Deeb-Roberge's original e-mail makes clear, ADOT contract manager Carrie Satterlee thought that there was no problem if a firm trying to get state work wanted to hire someone on the selection panel.

In fact, amazingly, Satterlee dismissed Deeb-Roberge's concerns.

"I see no reason to disqualify yourself from panel participation," she wrote. "It appears they are only interested in hiring you."

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Sarah Fenske
Contact: Sarah Fenske