EDITOR’S NOTE: Dallas Hyland is a columnist for St. George News and blogs as The Amateur Broad Thinker. The opinions stated in this article are solely his own and not those of St. George News.
Over the last few weeks, several citizens and a few local organizations contacted me as well as other members of St. George News to express concern over the perception of a conflict of interest on the part of elected officials and their involvement as subcontractors in the construction of the St. George Airport.
For my own part, I put some considerable time into gathering facts about these concerns and I can say there was no wrongdoing here.
The contracts for welding, plumbing, and landscaping were the ones in question and all of the elected officials who own and operate businesses in these trades, (one was a family member of the elected official), engaged in legal and fair bidding procedures to be awarded these jobs and completed these projects on time and on budget.
They maintain their integrity in these matters and offer the explanation that their elected positions are part time, leaving them with the added responsibility of not only providing for their own families, but serving their community.
So why report this?
Because it is fair to do so.
The level of public scrutiny elected officials subject themselves to is well beyond that of those who have expressed concerns; and in this case, their willingness to answer questions and to provide documents was nothing short of transparency.
But something still seems amiss here. Perhaps it is because it is easy to understand why these questions came about in the first place.
Three of six (that’s 50 percent) of our elected officials were awarded some type of contract on a public project in a time when everyone, especially contractors, was struggling to survive as the economy began its turn for the worse.
The community looks to its leadership to provide answers and solutions for its problems and when it learns that it is competing with them for work, it simply does not sit well.
And perhaps these city council people know it.
One in particular got pretty testy on more than one occasion when questioned in public forums and offered the lengthiest of all explanations in the form of letters to local organizations and the press.
Perhaps the old saying that a guilty conscience needs no accuser would be applicable here.
If there was no wrongdoing, why the need for an over-explanation or a short fuse?
The likely remedy to this situation for the citizen is first to become more informed. I purposely left the names of the these officials out because, in all fairness, the only thing to report is there was no wrongdoing. The information I obtained is available to the public as it is to me.
If the public does not like this process, they can appeal to the State Legislature to change the laws regarding city employees and public projects.
As for those who took these jobs, I will say it may have been better to have let them pass to avoid even the semblance of impropriety. Perception is a powerful thing and the perception here seems to be one of an unfair advantage given to elected officials. In spite of all reasonable explanations, this perception shapes the public’s opinion of those who hold their trust. It takes more than quoting a few rules from the rulebook to be considered above reproach I think.
Become informed. Be sure to vote.
See you out there.