Nice Work If You Can Get It

Ryan Teague Beckwith wrote over at Under the Dome about Fred Smith's jet and other items in the financial disclosure form Smith filed with the State Ethics Commission. There are a couple of things you won't find there that are worth a look.

The disclosure form, filed March 15th, presents a statement of economic interest as of December 31st of 2006. Since then Fred has been busy. He closed out his Senate campaign account "Friends of Fred Smith", repaying himself $66,455 in loans and forgiving his campaign $362,624.15 in loans. The loans to his campaign are not listed either as assets or liabilities on his Statement of Economic Interest.


On February 19th, Fred Smith formed a new company called Smith-Edwards, LLC, along with Johnston County landowner Randy Edwards. A few days later on February 23rd several plots of land, which Smith and Edwards have been assembling since 2004, were transferred to the new company that combined represent a tract of some 111 acres of farmland in Johnston County just south of Wendell and the Wake County line along Stott's Mill Road at Wendell Road.

This would be unremarkable were it not for the fact that on April 5th, CC Mangum, a Fred Smith company, was awarded a DOT contract in the amount of $665,919.00 for the replacement of a bridge over Buffalo Creek on Stott's Mill Road just 666 feet from a future entrance to the Smith-Edwards property.


Fred's property is located at the clump of trees in the background. Click for a larger image.

The current bridge is a narrow wooden structure with a single vehicle weight limit of 9 tons, less than the weight of fully loaded construction trucks carrying bricks, sand, gravel or concrete. As you can see from the maps, the Smith-Edwards property is located south of Stott's Mill Road, east of Buffalo Creek and west of Wendell Road.

Stott's Mill Road is sparsely populated and little travelled. The new bridge is clearly intended to serve future development. Without a new bridge construction traffic would be limited to access via Wendell Road. A new bridge opens up access to construction traffic from the west and provides enhanced access to future residents travelling west to Raleigh who can connect to the new Highway 264 without having to travel north through the Wake County town of Wendell.

There is no evidence that anything regarding the DOT contract is untoward. In the past year CC Mangum has been awarded DOT contracts totalling $43,597,139.95:

Shoulder Reconstruction, Resurfacing & Pavement markings
$2,812,923.19 4/6/06 Durham

Milling, Resurfacing, Shoulder Reconstruction, Pavement Removals & Pavement markings
$3,120,427.79 5/4/06 Wake

Milling, Resurfacing & Pavement markings
$1,529,978.89 5/4/06 Wake

Widening, Grading, Drainage, Paving, Signals & Culverts
$35,467,891.08 1/11/07 Durham Wake

Bridge Over Buffalo Creek & Approaches On SR-1718 (Stott's
Mill Rd).
$665,919.00 4/5/07 Johnston

For the Buffalo Creek Bridge project there were 9 bidders. (By comparison the $35,467,891.08, Durham/Wake project had only 3 bidders). CC Mangum was $94,843 below the next lowest bidder. The spreads between subsequent bidders were $3,730, $58,138, $24,000, $3,736, $39,711, $51,551 and $179,817.

Clearly the CC Mangum pencil was sharpened for a project that falls well below the scope of other DOT contracts it has been awarded. It does appear that CC Mangum was determined to be the low bidder and to see that project proceed as the Board of Transportation sometimes declines to award a contract to a low bidder when a low bid is considered too high.


Picture of a bridge similar to the proposed Buffalo Creek Bridge:

The project is a win-win for Fred Smith, courtesy of the North Carolina State Government. The bridge and adjacent road get to be improved substantially, benefiting his future development. CC Mangum gets a contract, albeit a small one relative to other DOT contracts it holds and, Fred Smith has the option to use the construction crews and equipment, already mobilized at government expense, for improvements to his own property just a few hundred feet away. Isn't it nice when Government gives a "hand up" to the rich guy instead of giving "hand-outs" as Mr. Smith is wont to say?

Comments

Bid Info

You can find it here at Project Letting. NCDOT is remarkable in the large amount of information made publicly accessible. Ironically it is not widely known as there is so much of it. You really need to know what you are looking for and you need to understand the District system and funding methods. It looks like transparency but I'd call it translucency.

I Don't Get It

Why is this wrong:

"State ethics laws say public officials should not use their positions to promote their private business."

but this is okay:

"The bridge and adjacent road get to be improved substantially, benefiting his future development."

Is it that two syllable word, 'promote'?

Let's look at the word 'promote'.

promote:

1. To raise to a more important or responsible job or rank.
2. To advance (a student) to the next higher grade.
3. To contribute to the progress or growth of; further.
4. To urge the adoption of; advocate: promote a constitutional amendment.
5. To attempt to sell or popularize by advertising or publicity: commercials promoting a new product.
6. To help establish or organize (a new enterprise), as by securing financial backing: promote a Broadway show.

Fred Smith = Number 3
Les Merritt = Number 5

Does North Carolina need a new dictionary? Here's one - cheap. The price of an internet connection.

Maybe it's only conflict of interest if somebody's interested.

Meh.

I agree with you completely

You said what I wanted to say and it is better than I could have said it.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



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Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Oooo, lawd ....

agreed, Unique ... I smell the smoke from that fire, too.

Great post, gregflynn. Sending it out as far as I can get it in Johnston ...

"They took all the trees and put them in a tree museum Then they charged the people a dollar 'n a half just to see 'em. Don't it always seem to go that you don't know what you've got till it's gone? They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."

Great job, Greg

There doesn't have to be anything untoward about it for the public to have a need to know. (That's an awkward sentence, but words are failing me right this moment.) If everything is above board, Fred can handle the scrutiny. It might not be unethical, but I have a bit of a problem with his bidding on a project that improves (rather substantially) the property he owns through another entity. If he won the bid and that information was widely, publicly known, I would feel better about it. It just sounds a bit shady to me.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Publicly

To paraphrase my earlier comment, all the information is publicly accessible (eventually) but I would be hard pressed to say that it is publicly or widely known.

The blunt questions that I did not pose above are:
1) Was the District Engineer pressured to prioritize this project over others in Johnston County?
2) Was any influence exercised to provide funding for this project?

It is inevitable that the poorly paved Stott's Mill Road will be repaved and probably widened after the new bridge is in place. That will be a larger cost triggered by the completion of the bridge which also facilitates connection of utility lines to the west.

I think that any transaction where public money

flows to a company owned by someone in a position to influence the flow of said money, should see lots and lots of daylight.

Good questions that deserve answers.

Robin Hayes lied. Nobody died, but thousands of folks lost their jobs.



***************************
Vote Democratic! The ass you save may be your own.

Yup

Im really curious what a powerful state senator is able to do in terms of influencing DOT contractors. I know that those with ethics have little to no influence in the process, but on which side of the fence is fred?

the orphanage story makes me worried about which side he will come out on.

Draft Brad Miller-- NC Sen ActBlue

"Keep the Faith"

Excellent research

The Asphalt King comes by his name honestly at least. It's no wonder his campaign website puts road-building right at the top of the list, next to getting god back in school and stomping the crap out of queers. His company has picked up 43 MILLION DOLLARS slopping at the government trough.

Plus don't forget, the Asphalt King grew up in an orphanage!

@$$hole.

To my knowledge.

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I guess the stenographers at the N&O were too busy sucking up to Gingrich at his Puppetshow Debut to worry about doing real reporting like this.

Funny.

That's one of my favorite Einstein quotes!

A Fred Bridge far away from the drop zone of profit?

CC: Fred! We move the property on the books so let's build the shopping mall and those 400 thousand dollar homes. Listen! Our trucks and suppliers won't be able to go over that low grade bridge and it means we would have drive 30 miles out of the way and cost us a ton of money with the investment.

Fred: you're right CC! I will low ball the bid on the bridge to sure it does happen and make it appear that we won it fair and clean...heh,,,,heh...

CC: Fred! How is the campaign going!

Fred: Great! I just wish I could drop that idiot goofy kid Nathan Tabor from running my campaign web site. The stupid fool kid put up on my site, that I gave 43 million dollars to the state with strings unattached in a charity deal to help little crippled kids in Dunn.

Git-R-Done

Nathan's never going to be as funny as Texas Governor Rick Perry making an ass of himself in support Fred by acting like a chicken pretending to be Larry the Cable Guy. This would go down great at the Velveeta Room in Austin

Great work connecting the DOTs

maybe this will be North Carolina's bridge to nowhere.

Awesome!

I worked on a planning board for a small town where the roads would mysteriously get paved in the months before a new subdivision proposal would come in. The pavement actually stopped right at the subdivision entrance leaving the rest of the road full of axel-destroying potholes). Two years after I left they nailed the public works dude for it but the whole town showed up to protest his firing because he was such a nice guy.

Great stuff, Greg.
 
News of the 10th district: See Pat Go Bye Bye,