Thursday, June 18, 2009

Jones: County will investigate all contracts cited in federal charges

Commissioner Peter Lawson Jones says the county is reexamining all contracts mentioned in the corruption charges filed Friday.

After the commission meeting this morning, I asked Jones to reiterate why the change order for Phoenix Cement was removed from the agenda.

"Phoneix Cement, though not expressly named, one can clearly conclude they were noted and referred to in the indictment through information," Jones said. "I thought we needed more time to undertake a thorough investigation of the circumstances to make sure nothing illegal or improper occurred." He added, "I have a feeling, when all is said and done, we’ll be able to move forward in that matter." (See this post for the reasons the Phoenix contract and change order appear legitimate on the face of it.)

I asked if the county would reexamine the awarding of the original Phoenix contract as well as the change order. He said yes.

I asked whether that would include an inquiry into whether Jimmy Dimora went to Las Vegas with a Phoenix executive and whether he accepted gifts from him there. Jones looked a little surprised but said, "We’re going to have to explore all the circumstances, to the extent that we can internally, to ascertain that that bid was not at all problematic." He said the results would be made public.

However, it will be hard for the commissioners to reject the change order. "My understanding is, the work has already been done, and they're merely waiting to be paid," Jones said.

What will happen when other contracts questioned in the prosecutor's charges come up?

"We are undertaking a review of all the contracts and companies that were referenced directly or could be clearly identified in the indictment by information filed last week," Jones said. County administrator Jim McCafferty and deputy administrators Lee Trotter and Rick Werner are conducting the inquiry.

I asked whether Jones and Hagan would specifically ask Dimora to recuse himself from voting on those issues. Jones said he and Hagan have a continuing objection to Dimora voting at all.

He told another reporter he was "disappointed" that Dimora did not take their advice to recuse himself from all votes.

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