In a unanimous vote Monday, including one cast by Chair Paul Coble, the Wake County Board of Commissioners awarded a $1.2 million contract for the renovation of a waste station to Scotia Construction, Inc.—a company owned and operated by Coble’s brother-in-law.
Three companies submitted “sealed bids” to the County and Scotia was the lowest bidder. DH Griffin bid $1.6 million and Environmental Specialties International bid $1.7 million. Scotia’s initial bid was for $1.4 million.
Coble disclosed his relationship to Scotia as soon as the item came up for debate and asked the county attorney if he, Coble, needed to recuse himself from the vote. The county attorney said no and no other county commissioner raised questions.
“They obviously didn’t see any conflict,” said Coble. “Typically, I don’t come across companies I know. Once I realized, I figured the best thing to do was let everybody know.”
“Even though chair Coble and I don’t agree on a number of issues I have great trust in the professionalism of county staff and what they do and chair Coble’s ethics,” said Democratic commissioner Erv Portman. “We don’t agree on a lot of things, but I think he’s an ethical guy.”
A quick search of Scotia shows that it doesn’t appear to have any recent complaints or violations registered with the Environmental Protection Agency or the North Carolina Department of Labor.
Scotia will be responsible for reinforcing floors, walls and pits at the East Wake Transfer Facility, a waste receiving station that was created in 2008. The facility is operated by Wake County and used by the county’s 12 municipalities.
The sealed bidding process is designed to prevent fraud or favoritism.
Bids are kept sealed at the county’s purchasing department until the deadline to submit bids passes. At that time, the bids are opened publicly, where oftentimes builders attend.
After that county staff will recommend “the lowest, responsible bidder” to the county commission. The wording “responsible” allows staff to pick the company that is best equipped to complete specifics within a given project.
After the bids have been opened, they become public information. However, they don’t come across commissioners’ desks until a few days before meetings, which is when Coble said he realized Scotia was involved.
“A whole lot of people move it forward to us before I ever put my eyes on it,” said Coble. “That gives me comfort and it should give others comfort too.”