Com­mis­sioner ac­cuses chair of break­ing state law

The Covington News - - News - GABRIEL KHOULI Staff Re­porter

At Tues­day night’s board meet­ing, county Com­mis­sioner Mort Ewing ac­cused Chair­man Kathy Mor­gan of break­ing state law and vi­o­lat­ing board pol­icy and the board’s code of ethics while ad­min­is­ter­ing a re­cent road project, claims Mor­gan said Thurs­day she be­lieved to be un­true.

Ewing said he had sev- eral con­cerns with how the chair­man has car­ried out the board’s ac­tions, in­clud­ing a 2011 Cook Road project that the board ap­proved the chair­man to move for­ward with and seek bids for on April 5, 2011.

He said Tues­day that the board min­utes from that April 5, 2011 meet­ing and sub­se­quent meet­ings

do not show any au­tho­riza­tion for the chair­man to spend any money on the project; how­ever, the county’s check reg­is­ter shows the county spent $198,771.21 on the project, with­out a bid ever com­ing back be­fore the board.

“That was spent with­out a bid and with­out this board’s ap­proval and all that money was paid to one contractor, Pittman Con­struc­tion,” Ewing said, who said ear­lier that “it ap­pears we’ve had a prob­lem get­ting board ac­tion ex­e­cuted by the chair­man.”

Ewing said Mor­gan vi­o­lated board pol­icy by spend­ing more than $20,000 with­out a bid, broke state law, which says all county trans­porta­tion projects greater than $20,000 shall be bid out, and vi­o­lated the county’s code of ethics.

Com­mis­sioner J.C. Hen­der­son asked Mor­gan for clar­i­fi­ca­tion, but the chair­man said this was the first she had heard of the is­sue and as far she knew she did not vi­o­late any poli­cies. She said she would look into the mat­ter and give a re­sponse at the next board meet­ing.

When reached by phone Thurs­day, Mor­gan said she had not yet gone back through all of the records, but, based on her rec­ol­lec­tion, she said had re­ceived spe­cial per­mis­sion from the board at the April 5 meet­ing to move for­ward on Cook Road and other projects with­out com­ing back to the board, be­cause the projects had to be com­pleted quickly as state fund­ing was at jeop­ardy.

Board min­utes don’t spec­ify whether the bids would be brought back to the board for ap­proval.

Ac­cord­ing to county records, the board ap­proved three road projects, Cook Road, Adams Cir­cle and Dear­ing Street. The projects were part of the state’s an­nual paving pro­gram, Lo­cal Main­te­nance and Im­prove­ment Grant (LMIG).

Board min­utes show the county needed to patch lo­cal roads us­ing county funds so they could be paved by the state.

“We didn’t know what the amount was (at the time), and the need was a lit­tle greater than the amount awarded, and we were ty­ing very hard to get that num­ber in line,” said Mor­gan. “What I had done was ask (the board), this one thing I want you to au­tho­rize me to go ahead with the project and we will get bids and go ahead and is­sue a work or­der for those bids in­stead of bring­ing that back to the board.

“I prob­a­bly should have brought back to the board a sum­mary of the bids as an ad­min­is­tra­tive ac­tion to let them know. But I do know I talked to all of them as projects were done in their dis­trict,” said Mor­gan, who noted board mem­bers were kept in­formed and had sev­eral prior op­por­tu­ni­ties to raise con­cerns to her.

She said the board had a sep­a­rate long work ses­sion on the topic.

“There’s never been any in­tent from us to mis­lead them in any­way and that’s the rea­son they get the check reg­is­ter and all the bud­get re­ports monthly,” said Mor­gan.

As a re­sult of his con­cerns, Ewing made a mo­tion to ap­prove the lat­est round of road projects, with the fol­low­ing stip­u­la­tions: the chair­man work with county en­gi­neer and county staff to get bids for the projects; all bids shall be re­viewed by county at­tor­ney or his de­signee be- fore they are sent to the board for con­sid­er­a­tion; and that no county funds be spent on any of these projects be­fore the board ap­proves them.

The mo­tion, which was made be­fore Ewing ex­plained his con­cerns, was passed unan­i­mously.

The projects are a cul­vert re­place­ment on Crow­ell Road, work at the in­ter­sec­tion of Crow­ell Road and Ga. High­way 81 and work at Gaither’s Road.

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