Governor Mark Sanford made much ado about the how the previous DOT head was a “good ole gal” and that “good ole boy” favors were being handed out by the SC Department of Transportation Commission. All that was supposed to change with Sanford’s ally, H.B. “Buck” Limehouse as Secretary of Transportation.
There is argument by those who say those before Limehouse did not practice favoritism. Fair enough. But, if Sanford’s ally Limehouse is to be held to the same standard of Sanford’s rhetoric, Sanford has a problem.
On August 20, 2009, the South Carolina Department of Transportation Committee met. The minutes of that meeting are public record. Section 10 of those minutes are presented here as they were published. It is not a riveting read by there are several things that stand out. Here is Section 10:
On motion of Commissioner Stevenson, seconded by
Commissioner Isaac, the Commission passed a motion approving
the recommendation of the staff to proceed forward with a
contract modification with Phillips & Jordan based on the
negotiated cost to complete the US 17 (ACE Basin)improvements in Colleton County as included in the original 2006 RFP to complete the remaining sections of US 17 between Combahee River and SC 64 in Jacksonboro.
It was noted by Commissioners Hooper and Isaac that it was
disclosed in letter form prior to the Commission meeting, that
while the son of Secretary Limehouse is employed by the
contractor, his position with the company is in a capacity that is
totally removed from this project and presents no conflict.
Commissioner Nuckles voted “no” to this motion and stated that it
is important that the Commission take a strong position toward
being transparent, open and above board on any contracts,
especially one that is of one hundred million dollars. She further
stated that, the opportunity for all contractors to bid on a project is
a basic premise of our law of transparency and accountability in
the State of South Carolina and that a contract modification does
not allow that option.
In other words, the staff of the Transportation Department, who works under the Secretary of Transportation, recommended that the Transportation Commission approve, without bid, a contract modification on a project for a firm the Secretary’s son works for.
By the standards set forth by Governor Sanford’s rhetoric, such is not acceptable. Further, the Commission’s noting that the Transportation Secretary’s son held no direct role with the project, thus there was not conflict, is troublesome. One can imagine that if the son in question had been a legislator’s son on a project whose no bid status was determined by that legislator’s staff, the Governor and his supporters would be pointing out how no rational employer would hold accountable or fire an employee whose father’s staff recommended a no bid contract modification. For that matter, there would probably be a press conference held in that legislator's hometown.
Such is the hypocrisy of the Sanford crowd. They talk about transparency and above board dealings in state business. But, apparently, that only applies to their political opponents.