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Bonuses went to accused VA chief

William Montague received $8,195 bonus after leaving retirement to run Dayton VA Medical Center.

The former director of the Dayton VA medical center received thousands of dollars in bonuses during the same time period he is accused of accepting bribes, seeking kickbacks from VA contractors and using his position to benefit business clients, records obtained by an investigative reporting non-profit show.

According to VA data obtained by the Center for Investigative Reporting, William Montague received a bonus of $8,195 in 2011, the year he came out of retirement to temporarily run the Dayton Veterans Affairs Medical Center following a scandal surrounding a former VA dentist’s unsanitary practices.

Montague also received bonuses totaling $73,000 between 2007 and 2010, when he retired from heading up the Cleveland VA medical center, according to the CIR.

The Dayton VA Medical Center serves 16 counties in southwest Ohio, and also operates community clinics in Springfield, Middletown, Lima and Richmond, Ind.

Federal officials allege that between March 2010 and May 2012 Montague received $200,000 worth of bribes from an unidentified Texas company and a company connected to the currently imprisoned Cleveland developer Michael Forlani.

In exchange, Montague used his current and former positions to influence VA decisions to help Forlani and others arrange meetings with VA officials and share inside VA information with clients who had hired him as a consultant, federal officials allege.

That includes directing Dayton VA Medical Center employees in 2011 to do research that he shared with his clients, according to a federal indictment that charges him with 36 counts including wire fraud, accepting bribes and money laundering.

They also allege that starting in 2007, Montague asked for a fee for helping arrange a meeting between an unidentified Virginia-based business with a Cleveland branch and a VA official in South Carolina. That company entered into a consulting contract with Montague in 2008 that would have paid him at least $60,000. But Montague never billed the company after the FBI raided Forlani’s office, according to a federal indictment.

Forlani is serving eight years on bribery convictions following a massive FBI investigation into corruption in Cuyahoga County.

Montague has pleaded not guilty, and has been free since June 19, the day he was arrested, after posting a $100,000 bond. A court hearing to set a trial date is scheduled for 10 a.m. Friday in Cleveland, court records show.

“If true, the accusations against former Dayton VA Director William Montague are highly troubling … It is shameful that anyone would seek to enrich themselves to the detriment of our veterans and hardworking taxpayers,” U.S. Rep. Mike Turner, R-Dayton, said in an email.

Darrel Clay and Ralph Cascarilla, who are listed in federal court records as Montague’s attorneys, have not returned messages seeking comment. Dayton VA spokeswoman Kim Frisco directed inquiries to the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cleveland, which did not return a phone message Wednesday.

The Center for Investigative Reporting gathered the records as part its reporting on the growing VA backlog in processing disabilities claims nationwide. The CIR reported in April that between 2007 and 2011, the agency handed out $16.8 million in extra compensation to 463 senior officials.

During this time period, the VA’s disability claims backlog worsened. The U.S. Government Accountability Office found in December 2011 that the number of VA claims taking more than 125 days to process had more than tripled since 2009. The GAO reported in March the average length of time it takes to resolve a claim had grown from 116 days in 2009 to 254 days in 2012.

On average, it takes 278 days in Ohio to complete a veteran’s disability claim, the Dayton Daily News reported last January.

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