Chesterfield Co. awards $2M in gas gross sales to county councilman’s oil firm

CHESTERFIELD COUNTY, S.C. (FOX 46 CHARLOTTE) — It was a proud stroll out throughout Pee Dee Gas’s parking zone as Patrick Norris confirmed off his gas switch station and the gas vans he makes use of to haul fuel and diesel throughout the Pee Dee of South Carolina and into elements of North Carolina.

“We do propane and kerosene and gasoline and diesel. We do all of it,” Norris stated as he walked out to his parked gas vans. “Something within the fuel enterprise, we’re capable of do it.” 

Patrick Norris stands on the base of his Pee Dee Fuels storage tanks in Cheraw, SC throughout an August 2021 interview with FOX 46. Norris stated his firm tried to bid on gas purchases in Chesterfield County however by no means received a contract. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

We tracked Norris down amid our investigation into how Chesterfield County bought someplace round 1,000,000 gallons of gas since 2011. Working from a tip {that a} county councilman benefited from almost all of these gas buys, we discovered emails from Chesterfield County Finance Director Michelle Stanley, asking Norris to bid on gas purchases.

“There’s one from October 12, 2020, requesting low sulfur diesel right here,” Norris stated holding a bid solicitation Stanley emailed him from her county e mail tackle. “Right here’s one from March the 17th of ’21 asking the identical factor,” Norris stated holding the final bid sheet the county despatched him.

“By no means received the primary one, by no means have bought them something,” Norris informed FOX 46. “Each time I ship it in simply the way in which they requested…I stated did we win the bid? I by no means heard something from them, and we’ve by no means received the bid.”

Having by no means received a contract, Norris stated he stopped responding to the county and requested Stanley to cease sending bid solicitations to him in 2019. Norris was the third vendor Stanley used to fulfill the county procurement code’s mandate that county administration solicits bids from three certified bidders.  

County information present the solicitations Stanley despatched Norris didn’t cease. 

THE 23.5 HOUR DEMAND

We filed South Carolina Freedom of Info Act requests with Chesterfield County in search of entry to each doc associated to petroleum purchases since Jan. 1, 2011. Over the course of some months, the county supplied copies of bid solicitations, spending information, and paperwork that might present whether or not the county adopted its personal buying insurance policies with gas purchases.

The paperwork revealed precisely how the county bought gas, all the time in a rush.

“Will you order me a load of diesel gas To [sic] be delivered tomorrow [sic] thanks,” Chesterfield County Fleet Administration Director, Travis Tucker, wrote to Stanley in an August 2019 e mail. Tucker’s e mail induced Stanley to create a bid sheet, asking for a minimum of 7,500 gallons of diesel.

Chesterfield County despatched this bid invitation to distributors it chosen. The bid sheet requires a vendor to submit a price-per-gallon quote to the county the day the bid kind is shipped out and the gas delivered by 4 p.m. the next day. (Supply: Chesterfield County Authorities)

The bid sheet reveals in an effort to win the bid, a vendor needed to submit a price-per-gallon quote by 4:30 p.m. “…on the identical day to be thought-about legitimate.” The seller additionally should assure supply by 4:30 p.m. the next day for the county to deem the bid legitimate.  

County information present Tucker despatched his gas request to Stanley at 6:03 a.m. Stanley despatched the primary bid sheet to Curtis Oil Firm at 8:31 a.m. Those self same information present Stanley then emailed the identical bid sheet to Pee Dee Gas and Petroleum Merchants Company at 8:46 a.m. – quarter-hour after Curtis Oil obtained the solicitation by way of fax.

The Curtis Oil Firm belonged to Chesterfield County Councilman Douglas Curtis’ household and employed the council vice-chairman up till the Curtis household bought the enterprise in August 2020.

Data supplied to FOX 46 beneath the South Carolina Freedom of Info Act present solely Curtis Oil submitted a bid for the August 2019 solicitation, providing to promote a minimum of 7,500 gallons of diesel to the county at $2.38 a gallon. The county didn’t have information exhibiting whether or not Petroleum Merchants Company submitted a bid or the quantity of the bid.

Norris confirmed his agency didn’t submit a bid for this solicitation.

The county couldn’t reply whether or not Curtis Oil received that bid, however spending information present a Sept. 20, 2019 fee to Curtis Oil for $13,878.60. Stanley informed FOX Charlotte Chief Investigative Jody Barr she didn’t ship award notices to bidders or report who received the contract. Stanley stated the county notifies profitable distributors by a cellphone name.

Stanley stated she usually “reduce checks” inside two weeks of gas supply.

Stanley advised we use a fee roster to find out which vendor was awarded a solicitation for a gas contract. The fee roster was supplied to us by the county beneath an open information request and reveals the fee date, the seller’s identify, the voucher quantity, the county examine quantity, and the quantity of every fee.

Regardless of the rule requiring a bid submission by 4:30 p.m., county information present Curtis Oil Firm’s bid sheet wasn’t clocked in on the county fax machine till 5:03 p.m. The county’s fee roster signifies the county accepted the bid and paid the Curtis Oil Firm $13,878.60.

That one bid invitation tells the story of how Chesterfield County solicited bids in $2.5 million petroleum purchases between 2011 and 2021, the timeframe lined by our open information requests.

“I’d get an e mail, 11 or 12 o’clock within the day and they’d be requesting a value by 4:30 that afternoon and with a time schedule like that, generally it’s onerous to do,” Norris informed FOX 46. Norris additionally operates a big, full-time farming operation in Chesterfield and Darlington Counties. “If they’d give us three or 4 days’ discover, you understand, we want gas on Friday they usually’d tell us on Monday or Tuesday, then it might be an entire lot simpler and higher.”

Getting a tanker of gas delivered to Chesterfield County in lower than 24 hours was almost not possible, based on Norris.

This Nov. 1, 2021 {photograph} reveals the seven storage tanks positioned at Pee Dee Gas’s Cheraw headquarters. Patrick Norris stated his firm retains 1000’s of gallons of gas available to offer each day gas service to a number of bulk gas prospects throughout the Pee Dee area of South Carolina. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

“And particularly in at this time’s time. Used to, it wasn’t reasonable, and now it’s actually out of the image,” Norris stated. “We’re ordering stuff three and 4 days prematurely hoping to get it to a few of our prospects within the timeframe they want it. Even being three or 4 days forward, it’s nonetheless tight.”

Norris provides gas to the whole city of Cheraw – to incorporate its public security departments – to a big hospital system within the Pee Dee, and to a minimum of two multi-billion-dollar companies in Darlington County.

“How aggressive was the worth you have been giving Chesterfield County,” Barr requested Norris, “Actual aggressive. I used to be going virtually to the bone, so to talk, to win the bid. As a result of I’m proper right here, it’s proper right here on house floor. It being proper right here at house, I all the time attempt to look out for native individuals, particularly right here in my house county.”

THAT’S A ‘BID RIGGING’ PROCESS

Jay Bender slid a big leather-upholstered chair from beneath the top of his regulation agency convention room and pulled open a regulation ebook containing the 35,000-plus phrase South Carolina Public Officers and Workers ethics regulation.

Bender, who for almost 50 years, has practiced regulation defending the general public’s proper to know the enterprise of its authorities appeared over the information we obtained from Chesterfield County as a part of our investigation.

“For my part, that’s not a bid course of, that’s a bid rigging course of and the people who find themselves most likely paying the worth for which might be the taxpayers of Chesterfield County,” Bender informed Barr, “If there have been a reputable bid course of, you’d anticipate the gas want, you’d know that it might take a few days, maybe, to get 7,500 gallons of diesel or gasoline to Chesterfield County and you’d construction your bids so that you’d get three reputable responses.”

Columbia legal professional Jay Bender reviewed the findings detailed in our ‘Fueling Suspicion’ investigation right into a decade of information exhibiting Chesterfield County’s gas buying system. Bender’s opinion of what he noticed within the information was the county structured the bid kind to forestall three certified distributors from having the ability to compete for the county’s gas enterprise. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

We tried to ask Travis Tucker, the county’s fleet supervisor, why the gas purchases gave the impression to be last-minute and whether or not the county had any option to know its on-hand gas stock to anticipate gas wants. The county has two giant above floor gas storage tanks at its 97 Jones Highway public works website.  

Tucker didn’t reply to our messages.

One concern for Bender was the way in which the county notified the general public it wanted gas. As an alternative of posting the enterprise for all gas suppliers who could also be desirous about competing for the enterprise, county information present the finance director picked distributors to whom she’d ship bid sheets. A decade of information present Stanley would fax solicitations to the Curtis Oil Firm and would then individually e mail solicitations to 2 different distributors.

County information present 287 bulk gas purchases totaling $2,569,105 between 2011 and 2021. The county awarded the Curtis Oil Firm 237 of 287 purchases totaling $2,081,705, based on information supplied by the county.

The county didn’t have information exhibiting Councilman Curtis ever submitted a recusal associated to the gas gross sales. That’s doubtless as a result of the county procurement code grants the county administrator the authority to make purchases between $1 and $49,999.99 as long as the administrator follows the foundations outlined within the code.

In our evaluation of a decade of council minutes, we couldn’t discover any occasion of gas buying as a council motion merchandise that doubtless would have required Curtis to recuse himself and file a disclosure. Data supplied by the county beneath the open information act additionally didn’t present any council motion instantly associated to gas buying.

Bender thinks the main focus of an investigation ought to fall on those that organized the bid solicitations and spending, “I feel there’s a distinction between moral habits within the curiosity of taxpayers and the very naked minimal legality. I feel in Chesterfield County, what we’ve got here’s a circumstance which will have some points of illegality, however you as a reporter can have problem discovering it out. It must be most likely one thing that regulation enforcement would look into. However it doesn’t move the attention take a look at as a result of it doesn’t look good. It doesn’t move the scent take a look at as a result of it doesn’t scent good. And it seems like a bid rigging course of and never a bid course of.”

We additionally requested the county for information exhibiting any recusal or battle of curiosity assertion filed by a Chesterfield County councilmember since 2011. The county didn’t have any information exhibiting Councilman Curtis filed a disclosure assertion up to now decade. The one recusals on file up to now decade have been filed by Councilwoman Mary Anderson.

Anderson filed three recusals; two in 2018 and one in 2020. The 2018 recusals got here after Anderson publicly disclosed a member of the family’s possession curiosity in a taxpayer-backed undertaking and the 2020 recusal occurred after Anderson disclosed her employment relationship with a “principal” related to a condemnation undertaking in July 2020.

Regardless of discovering no obvious moral violation within the information supplied by the county, Bender stated Curtis’ place may present an “oblique” affect over county staff, “It seems to me like this council member – who’s employed by this firm, and I perceive the corporate is owned by his brother – most likely has much less direct involvement within the course of than the one who manages the fleet and the one who sends out the request.”

“In a small group, all people is aware of who owns the oil firm. All people is aware of who’s on county council and the council administrator most likely is aware of that it’s not going to harm the directors long run job prospects to look kindly on an oil firm owned by the brother of a councilmember,” Bender stated within the interview at his regulation agency final month.

“Now, it could possibly be solely harmless. There could also be only one firm on the planet in Chesterfield County that stockpiles 7,500 gallons of gasoline or diesel gas for supply on the day after a bid is introduced. That looks like a really unusual coincidence to me…however I don’t imagine based mostly on the information that you simply’ve obtained from Chesterfield County, that this can be a reputable procurement course of designed to offer three equally certified suppliers an equal likelihood at fulfilling this contract for 7,500 gallons of gas,” Bender informed FOX 46.

‘FOLLOW THE PAPERWORK, DO WHAT YOU GOTTA DO’

We noticed Douglas Curtis’ four-door Ford because it rounded the nook into the parking zone of the county administration constructing Nov. 3. Curtis backed his truck right into a parking spot and pulled a child blue masks up over his face as we met him as his truck door swung open.

“I feel I lastly acquired some solutions for you,” Curtis stated as he fumbled with a masks overlaying his face.

Chesterfield County Council Vice Chairman Douglas Curtis listens as a member of the general public addresses Chesterfield County council throughout a July 2021 council assembly. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

We’d emailed Curtis the week earlier than asking for an interview regarding his ethics filings and the county’s $2 million-plus in gas purchases from the Curtis Oil Firm. Curtis returned a cellphone message two days earlier than the council assembly however wouldn’t schedule a time to interview with us.

Curtis confirmed his household bought the Curtis Oil Firm in August 2020. Nonetheless, county spending information present 5 extra petroleum purchases from Curtis Oil from September 2020 via Jan. 6, 2021 totaling $16,110.

Curtis disclosed his oil firm wage beginning in 2017 when a change within the state ethics regulation first required public officers to report non-public earnings. Curtis reported his non-public earnings in every of his subsequent ethics filings in 2018, 2019, and 2020.

Curtis served as chairman of Chesterfield County Council’s Finance Committee from 2017 via 2020. Curtis stated he filed the wage disclosures, however stated he’d examine with the council clerk on why that info was not contained in his annual filings, “I’ve acquired a lot paperwork after 27 years it’s simply onerous to search out,” Curtis informed Barr in November.

The councilman balked on the notion a gas firm couldn’t flip round a 7,500 gallon gas order in lower than 24 hours, “Having a day’s discover that the county instantly wants 7,500 gallons of gas, it might appear to just one agency would moderately have the ability to pull that off – and that was your agency – was any a part of this; may any a part of this be seen as bids being rigged in Curtis Oil’s favor?” Barr requested Vice Chairman Curtis throughout an interview exterior the county administration workplaces in November.

“Mr. Barr, I don’t assume so…Any of our wholesale accounts, they’d name it within the day earlier than after which we’d dispatch the vans out, Dennis (Curtis’ brother) would the following day, so 24 hours isn’t that uncommon. In my view,” Curtis stated.

Curtis additionally stated he wasn’t conscious of the quantity of tax {dollars} awarded to his oil firm since 2011 however welcomed the scrutiny.

“And what it seems like right here is Curtis Oil earned $2 million of $2.5 million in enterprise; clearly you maintain a council place right here, you have been the finance committee chair. The way in which these bids have been performed, some individuals might have a look at this and say, man, the repair was in from the start,” Barr stated to Curtis, “I’ve no drawback with that. Look into it, observe the paperwork, observe the doc, do what you bought to do,” Curtis replied.

PROCUREMENT RULES BROKEN?

State regulation permits each native authorities entity in South Carolina to determine its personal procurement code; a rulebook to make sure taxpayers get one of the best deal and to indicate the general public whom their authorities is doing enterprise with.

Many native authorities procurement codes additionally require authorities officers competitively bid public enterprise and to indicate the general public what a vendor is paid beneath a contract. In Chesterfield County, lots of those self same principals apply. Our evaluation of a decade of spending information discovered Chesterfield County didn’t observe its personal buying guidelines when it spent greater than $2.5 million on gas since 2011.

Our evaluation of a decade of Chesterfield County gas purchases reveals the county by no means publicly posted any gas enterprise. Emails and fax information obtained by FOX 46 reveals the county’s finance director chosen the distributors the county bought bulk gas from.

An indication posted on the entrance door of the previous workplaces of the Curtis Oil Firm reveals a brand new firm assumed possession of the Chesterfield County family-owned and operated oil firm in August 2020. Between 2011 and 2021, the corporate earned $2.1 million of $2.5 million in gas gross sales to Chesterfield County. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

Each gas solicitation between January 2011 and August 2020 included the Curtis Oil Firm and Petroleum Merchants Company. In August 2017 the county started together with a 3rd vendor to its month-to-month solicitations, though the county’s procurement code required administration to solicit three bids.

Every expenditure we reviewed fell beneath the county’s “Small Purchases” provision. That features any expenditure under $49,999.99. The “Small Purchases” code is split into two sections: spending under $10,000 and spending between $10,001 and $49,999.99.

County spending guidelines permits the county administrator to approve purchases as much as $10,000 as long as the administrator solicits quotes from “a minimal of three certified sources” and the award “shall be made to the bottom accountable/responsive bidder.” The administrator can use fewer than three sources if within the administrator’s “judgment” three certified sources don’t exist.

In additional than 700 pages of spending information, the county couldn’t present any aggressive bid information for any of the 184 gas buys under the $10,000 threshold. The county paid Curtis Oil $473,214 in 157 gas transactions that fell under $10,000 every.

The county paid the next-highest vendor, Vitality Distributors, LLC, $47,929 after awarding the corporate 20 gas buys under $10,000. A letter dated August 3, 2020 was taped to the entrance door of the Curtis Oil Firm workplace exhibiting Vitality Distributors, LLC took over as proprietor of the councilman’s oil firm that month.

Secretary of State information additionally present the Curtis Oil Firm’s company is in a “dissolved” standing.

Every of Vitality Distributors, LLC’s gas buys occurred within the months after Curtis Oil bought in August 2020. The corporate bought gas to the county 20 instances and earned $47,929 from Chesterfield County since August 2020, based on county spending information.

In decade of Chesterfield County gas spending information obtained beneath the South Carolina Freedom of Info Act, the county couldn’t produce information exhibiting aggressive bids for gas purchases lower than $10,000 and no written approvals for purchases between $10,001 and $49,000. (WJZY Picture/Jody Barr)

Chesterfield County awarded Vitality Distributors, LLC all however three “Small Purchases” beneath $10,000 since December 2020. Curtis Oil was awarded two of the three purchases with the Preston Moore Oil Firm, Inc. profitable one gas supply.

For expenditures between $10,000 and $49,999.99, the procurement code requires the administrator get “written approval” from both the County Council Chairman or the Finance Committee Chairman earlier than the administrator can legally authorize these purchases.

County information present 103 “Small Purchases” petroleum expenditures between the $10,001 to $49,999.99 threshold since 2011. With the most important single gas expenditure totaling $45,171, not one of the gas purchases required council approval.

Our evaluation of a decade of county spending information reveals no written authorization for any of the 103 gas purchases. These purchases totaled $2,025,701. The Curtis Oil Firm received 80 of the 103 “Small Purchases” contracts for gas buys falling between $10,001 and $49,999.

The county paid Curtis Oil $1,608,491 beneath these bulk gas purchases.

‘NOT GOING TO PLAY GOT YA’

Within the days earlier than we confirmed as much as the Nov. 3 Chesterfield County Council assembly, we made a number of makes an attempt to schedule interviews with Chesterfield County leaders. Every message requested to debate the outcomes of our ‘Fueling Suspicion’ investigation.

Not one county authorities official answerable for the spending agreed to be interviewed.

Chesterfield County Lawyer Heath Ruffner wouldn’t comply with be interviewed throughout this November 2021 county council assembly. Ruffner would solely reply questions regarding the county’s adherence to its procurement coverage if the questions have been introduced in writing. (WJZY Picture/Mak Kruse)

County Administrator Tim Eubanks, County Finance Director Michelle Stanley, and County Lawyer Heath Ruffner needed questions relating to particular purchases in writing for 700-plus pages of information obtained via our investigation.

Ruffner didn’t return a message left at his regulation agency two days earlier than the council assembly.

“We’ll be pleased to reply any questions in a complete and full method, ship them to us in writing,” Ruffner informed FOX 46 through the Nov. 3 council assembly. We despatched the county administrator and county finance director detailed factors overlaying our findings in an e mail on Oct. 28, per week earlier than the Nov. 3 council assembly.

“You’re making a call to not focus on this with us,” Barr requested Ruffner earlier than the assembly. “No, sir. I’m telling you we’ll be glad to reply any particular questions you’ve gotten; you haven’t despatched us any,” Ruffner, the Cheraw-based legal professional answered.  “Nicely, let’s ask them at this time,” Barr replied. “We’re about to begin a council assembly,” Ruffner stated from his seat behind the council dais. “I do know, we’ve acquired a couple of minutes,” Barr informed Ruffner.

“I’m not going to play ‘acquired ya’ with you, okay,” Ruffner stated ending the trade.

Information interviews between authorities officers and journalists are speculated to be natural conversations the place a journalist can freely ask questions on a public matter with out limiting the dialog to a predetermined set of inquiries.

Nonetheless, we did ship Ruffner, Eubanks, Stanley and the remainder of council a complete listing of factors we needed to speak about. Every level detailed precisely what we discovered regarding the county’s lack of documentation exhibiting whether or not administration adopted the Chesterfield County procurement code with regard to the gas purchases.

Chesterfield County Tim Eubanks and Michelle Stanley discuss earlier than a Nov. 3, 2021 county council assembly. The county’s procurement coverage grants Eubanks or his “designee” because the county principals licensed to make purchases lined by buying guidelines. (WJZY Picture/Mac Kruse)

The factors have been spelled out in emails despatched on Oct. 28 and once more on Nov. 30.

Finance Director Michelle Stanley did present some perception into the county’s dealing with of gas buying when FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr went to the county administration workplaces Oct. 12 to evaluation spending information supplied in response to open information requests.

“I’ve been with Chesterfield County for 12 years and we’ve all the time performed it this manner,” Stanley informed Barr contained in the administration constructing. Stanley made the assertion relating to the push for gas deliveries detailed within the bid sheets.

We additionally discovered cases of the place Curtis Oil was not the bottom bidder and didn’t get the bid in by deadline, however the county awarded the councilman’s oil firm the contract regardless of that.

A June 29, 2016 solicitation reveals Curtis Oil quoted the county $1.92 per gallon for 7,500 gallons of diesel. Petroleum Merchants Company quoted the county $1.80 per gallon. Spending information present Curtis Oil received the contract and the county paid the councilman’s firm $14,734 in a examine written the next day.

The county may’ve saved taxpayers $1,000 by awarding the contract to Petroleum Merchants Company.

County buying information present one other occasion the place Curtis Oil received a contract with a better bid and a bid despatched within the day after the deadline. Stanley despatched the April 20, 2020 bid sheet to Curtis Oil at 11:25 a.m. and despatched the identical bid invitation to Petroleum Merchants Company at 12:50 p.m., almost 90 minutes later.

Curtis Oil quoted the county a $1.24 value per gallon and Petroleum Merchants Company quoted the county $1.15 per gallon. When questioned concerning the buy, Stanley despatched a memorandum to FOX 46, explaining the acquisition was modified to an “Emergency Coverage Bid” after Petroleum Merchants Company “couldn’t assure the supply the following morning.”

“Our highway division wanted the diesel by mid-morning to verify they’d ample diesel for tools operators to proceed their jobs,” Stanley defined within the memorandum to FOX 46.

The county awarded Curtis Oil 4 separate contracts beneath the procurement code’s emergency provision. Every occurred in 2020 after the county wrote that in all 4 cases the bottom bidder couldn’t assure supply of seven,500 gallons of gas to Chesterfield County throughout the 23.5-hour window the county demanded the supply.

Every emergency gas contract award was as a result of the county would have run out of gasoline and diesel gas if the supply was delayed. The procurement code reveals the county can waive aggressive bidding solely when “there exists a right away risk to public well being, welfare, essential financial system and effectivity, or security beneath emergency circumstances and supplied that such emergency procurements shall be made with as a lot competitors as is practicable beneath the circumstances.”

The rulebook additionally reveals the county clarify the rationale for the emergency by recording “written documentation of the idea for the emergency and for the number of the actual contractor shall be included within the contract file.”

Chesterfield County’s Procurement Code particulars precisely how the county ought to deal with purchases the place administration chooses to not competitively bid a purchase order. (Supply: Chesterfield County Authorities)

Stanley couldn’t produce information exhibiting the county documented the rationale for any of the emergency purchases till we questioned the purchases throughout our investigation. “The doc with the June 2nd & July 14th bid is a notation I typed for you explaining why the bid was awarded to a better bidder so you’d have a greater understanding. This was not within the authentic documentation you reviewed, Stanley wrote in a Nov. 30 e mail to FOX 46.

Stanley informed Barr within the Oct. 12 open information assembly that the administration would award Curtis Oil contracts even when the vice chairman’s household’s oil firm wasn’t the bottom bidder, regardless of the county procurement code ordering the administration to award to the bottom bidder, “…and the award shall be made to the bottom accountable/responsive bidder,” the procurement code states.

Stanley stated if the “distinction in two bids” was $800 or much less, the county would award the contract to the Curtis Oil Firm.

We despatched county administrator Eubanks an e mail on Oct. 28 detailing our findings and to ask the county’s top-appointee to interview with us. Eubanks wouldn’t schedule an interview. Earlier than the Nov. 3 council assembly began, we handed Eubanks the e-mail asking him to schedule time after the assembly to debate the county’s adherence to its buying guidelines.

“You flip the digital camera on, I’m performed,” Eubanks informed Barr and a FOX 46 Photographer Mak Kruse. Eubanks waved Barr into council chambers and tried to dam Kruse from coming into. Kruse held the digital camera over Eubanks and Barr defined our findings to the administrator.

Chesterfield County receives bulk gas deliveries at its highway and bridge division on Jones Highway. The county has two giant above floor storage tanks the place the county fuels its heavy diesel tools and gas-powered tools. (WJZY Picture/Aaron Martin)

Eubanks maintained he wasn’t ready to debate particular expenditures.

“I suppose we’re having a miscommunication right here,” Barr informed Eubanks, “I don’t have questions on particular expenditures. I’ve questions on why there aren’t any information documenting bid solicitations for small purchases between $1 and $10,000. There aren’t any solicitations. There aren’t any information documenting written approvals for small purchases between $10,000 and $50,000.” “Okay,” Eubanks responded.

“These information don’t exist; the county tells me, which might be a transparent violation of the county’s procurement coverage. In order that’s what I wish to ask you, the place are these information,” Barr requested Eubanks. “Let me discuss to the finance director and we’ll see, let me see if we will reply that. I don’t know good off the whim,” the administrator stated.

“Your procurement coverage’s saying one factor, however what’s really taking place is one thing completely different and that’s what we’re attempting to type out right here,” Barr stated to Eubanks through the trade in council chambers.

“Proper. Let me do some checking there to see, however I disagree with that half,” Eubanks stated.

Eubanks finally walked away, reminding our FOX 46 crew he wouldn’t be interviewed on digital camera and would solely reply questions submitted to him in writing.

FOX 46 Chief Investigator Jody Barr fingers Chesterfield County Administrator Tim Eubanks a hardcopy of an e mail we despatched him on Oct. 28, 2021 detailing the findings of our investigation right into a decade of gas purchases. (WJZY Picture/Mac Kruse)

“I’m sorry, you simply picked a nasty day—council assembly—you understand council conferences is loopy,” Eubanks stated. “Nicely, I began this final week and never getting a time scheduled has been the issue,” Barr replied. “However I can inform you, if you wish to come again, don’t carry him,” Eubanks stated referring to Kruse.

“Nicely, that is what we do is–” Barr informed Eubanks earlier than the administrator interrupted, “I do know it, however you’re not going to hem me up,” Eubanks stated strolling away. “I’m not attempting to hem you up, I actually wish to know,” Barr stated.

Eubanks didn’t reply along with his observe up dialog with Stanley relating to the factors raised throughout our interview. Barr despatched one other e mail to Eubanks, Stanley, and Ruffner on Nov. 29 with extra detailed factors relating to our findings.

In a name with Stanley on Nov. 30, she confirmed the county didn’t competitively bid $543,403 in bulk gas spending on any of the “Small Purchases” as much as $10,000. Stanley confirmed these gas purchases have been on a month-to-month schedule and that Curtis Oil was chosen as the seller.

Stanley additionally confirmed the county had no written approvals for “Small Purchases” between $10,001 and $49,999, which is required earlier than the administration can spend tax {dollars} on provides inside that vary. Stanley stated the county’s complied with that provision as a result of every month she presents an “Accounts Payable Examine Register” to council members at every council assembly and every member, which presumably included Vice Chairman Douglas Curtis, indicators off approving the earlier month’s spending.

However, by the point council sees and approves the spending the purchases already occurred.

We filed a South Carolina Freedom of Info Act request with the county on Dec. 2 for entry to the authorized month-to-month examine registers and information exhibiting the approvals. The county has 10 enterprise days to reply.

Chesterfield County not purchases gas this manner. The county began buying gas from distributors listed on the state’s Division of Procurement Companies’ statewide contract database. Buying gas via the statewide contract has eradicated the necessity for the county to proceed its month-to-month gas buying system.

Chesterfield County Council Vice Chairman Douglas Curtis stated he didn’t need “the inkling of impropriety” in how county workers bought gas. Curtis stated he welcomed a evaluation of county information on this Nov. 3, 2021 interview with FOX 46. (WJZY Picture/Mac Kruse)

We requested Ruffner whether or not he intends to research the findings detailed in our ‘Fueling Suspicion’ report. Ruffner didn’t reply to that query.

We despatched an e mail to every member of the Chesterfield County council asking for an interview regarding our findings. Not one of the elected officers responded.

“Would you be upset to know that the county administration won’t have adopted procurement coverage,” Barr requested Curtis through the Nov. 3 interview. “Sure, sir. As a result of we attempt to maintain them (solicitations) all; both with RFPs or bid requests for proposals,” Curtis responded.

“What do you intend to do to determine how this occurred,” Barr requested, “I don’t know that I’m able to do it, however the county legal professional is don’t you assume,” Curtis replied. “Have you ever requested him,” Barr requested, “No sir. I didn’t assume there was a must, Mr. Barr.”

After we advised Curtis focus on our findings with the county legal professional, the councilman agreed, “I perceive. I don’t like that as a result of I’ve tried very onerous to keep away from even the inkling of impropriety,” Curtis stated.

https://www.fox46.com/information/investigations/chesterfield-co-awards-2m-in-fuel-sales-to-county-councilmans-oil-company/

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