It takes more than quoting the rulebook to be above reproach (OPINION)

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.

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  • Marie Hunter November 1, 2011 at 6:04 pm

    It is also interesting that the city health plan was changed to Select Health after the health plan agent was elected to the city council.

    • Holly November 2, 2011 at 11:17 am

      Interesting! I for one did not know that the city was now insured by Select Care. The same company that employs Jon Pike!! But, no conflict of interest here folks. I’m sure it is just a coincidence. NOT! Time to pay attention and GO VOTE!!! I for one will not be voting for one incumbent this year!

  • John Hull November 1, 2011 at 6:35 pm

    Public service, especially uncompensated public service, should allow for those who serve to also be in the competitive bidding process for municipal projects. To be sure, they likely have a more intimate knowledge of the process and what is required to win the bid, but that shouldn’t remove them from the bidding.

    Very often, people who have sound businesses, and find themselves at liberty to do more in the community will run for office. As a retiree, I am independant of financial need and have a desire to serve. Why would being financially independant be necessary for public service?

    It sounds more like envy than being underbidded fair and square. It always hurts to lose out.

    • Cathie November 3, 2011 at 6:51 pm

      just for your info they are paid to be on the city council thus I would consider them employees

  • Marie Hunter November 1, 2011 at 6:56 pm

    Another interesting fact is that the plumbing and landscape at the new airport was done by a council member or council member’s spouse.

  • Firefly November 2, 2011 at 10:18 am

    Don’t forget that Mayor McArthur has a welding business in town also.

  • Ralph November 2, 2011 at 10:19 am

    I have not seen any living humans at the airport when I have been out there. But the landscaping was attractive and the plumbing worked great.

    • LaMarcus November 2, 2011 at 3:36 pm

      So you only saw “dead” humans when you were at the airport?

  • SexyBeezy November 2, 2011 at 10:05 pm

    The airport is such an elaborate ghost town, and it’s isolated location makes it almost haunting. Perfect setting for a movie to be filmed!

  • Matt Mortenson November 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

    We live in a small community and in such a community as ours, roots run deep, even if you weren’t born here and have only lived hear for 30 years (place tounge in cheek). It’s a fine line the council has to walk, they have family’s to feed and bill’s to pay just like you and me. We have to be sure to be objective, maybe the council member who got the health insurance plan switched really had a solution for the City to save money, I don’t know I haven’t done the research. On the other hand we have to remember the old adage that “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know”. Does their councilship offer them potential advantages in networking and business possibilities? You bet. But if they get there contracts via the legal process, then so be it.

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