Son of W.Va. homeland security chief on payroll

CHARLESTON (AP) — The son of West Virginia’s homeland security director is being paid through a federal stimulus grant that his father oversees.

Jimmy Gianato tells the Charleston Gazette the West Virginia Ethics Commission and the federal agency that distributed the grant money did not have an issue with his son Adam’s hiring and denies he used his influence to get him the job.

Adam Gianato, 25, is being paid through a $126.3 million federal stimulus grant overseen by the elder Gianato. In October, Adam Gianato was hired as a contract employee at $60 an hour.

The contract is with an engineering firm that’s helping to build 12 microwave emergency towers across West Virginia. The state tapped the federal stimulus dollars to pay Adam Gianato’s salary and overtime.

It totaled $73,000 over 4 1/2 months. Jimmy Gianato was the project’s grant administrator.

Then, in February, Adam Gianato was hired as a full-time state worker assigned to inspect the wireless towers. Working from his home in McDowell County, Gianato is paid a salary of $37,500 funded entirely by the stimulus.

The state Ethics Commission and the agency that distributed the grant funds, the National Telecommunications & Information Administration, did not object to his son’s hiring,  Gianato said.

“They didn’t have an issue with it,” he told the newspaper. “I didn’t have anything to do with Adam being hired — or asking anyone that he be hired.”

Adam Gianato also drove rental trucks paid for by the federal grant from his home in Kimball to tower sites in southern West Virginia. His travel expenses — meals, hotels, gas and other miscellaneous charges on his personal credit card — were covered by the grant.

Jimmy Gianato heads the three-member federal “grant implementation team” that oversees a $126.3 million project to expand high-speed Internet in West Virginia. He has the final say on the use of the stimulus funds, including hiring and spending decisions.

The National Telecommunications Information Administration will review Adam Gianato’s hiring, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

West Virginia expects to spend more than $30 million out of the $126.3 million federal grant on the towers and wireless equipment. Team members affectionately call the project “Jimmy’s towers.”

Jimmy Gianato said Joe Gonzalez, communication director for the state Office of Emergency Medical Services, helped Adam Gianato secure the job. Gonzalez reports directly to Jimmy Gianato on the federal stimulus project, according to an organizational chart.

Adam Gianato did not respond to a request for comment, the Gazette said.

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