Anyone who has had a radio on in the past couple days has probably heard Phil Scott moaning and sounding sooo hurt over how mean his gubernatorial primary opponent Bruce Lisman is being to him. Says Scott’s campaign: “For month’s Bruce Lisman has lied to voters about Phil’s record.”
In aggressive campaign ads, Lisman is raising the appearance of a conflict of interest over Scott’s ownership in Dubois Construction company should he win election to the Governor’s office. Dubois does millions of dollars in contracted State of Vermont business: Since 2001, DuBois Construction has received $3.785 million in payments from the state Agency of Transportation, The Department of Forests, Parks and Recreation, and the Departments of Buildings and General Services and Fish & Wildlife.
If elected, Scott says, he is planning to form a blind trust to handle his interest in the business, but Lisman and others are skeptical that this maneuver adequately addresses the ethical implications. The Vermont Democratic Party commented: “Scott would still be completely aware of where his private profits were coming from and which policies could increase them while he collects a state salary.”
I wrote a diary in May about how Scott has handled the issue in his past. When he began his campaign Scott commented on his contracting ethics to Vtdigger.com: When a project he has supported as an elected official goes out to bid, Scott said he makes sure his company does not seek the contract. So he said. But a closer look reveals that this hasn’t exactly been his practice.
As a state senator Scott served on the Senate Transportation Committee and successfully lobbied Senator James Jeffords (PDF p. 10) to put a certain provision in Federal legislation for specific transportation funding. Vermont (USA) Senator Jim Jeffords (I-VT) credited Vermont State Senator Phil Scott (R-Washington County) with the provision in the new federal transportation legislation adding modern roundabout projects to the list of safety improvements eligible nationwide for 100 percent federal transportation funding.
And then, first while Scott was a state senator and later as Lt. Governor, Dubois Construction submitted bids on contracts receiving this particular federal funding when the monies became available in Vermont. Total potential worth of the bids on these projects: $15 million.
Over several years, Dubois Construction bid on at least three Vermont state roundabout projects, including two since he became Lt. Governor.
One bid in 2008 was worth $1,388,412.00 [CONTRACT ID : 04B198], one in 2011 worth $1,754,788.83 [CONTRACT ID : 08B126], and in 2013 (what would have been a biggie) worth $11,953,592.58 [CONTRACT ID : 78D082]. All his bids were in the middle of the pack, but not being the lowest bid, none was awarded to Scott’s company.
But the important point is he did bid on them after lobbying for specific funding; taken together, the three bids would have been worth over 15 million dollars to Phil Scott and Dubois Construction.
Scott’s tax returns indicate that the bulk of his wealth is tied up in Dubois Construction. He has said he would temporarily distance himself from his construction business should he become governor, but he wants to return to it afterward.
Phil Scott may not like Lisman questioning his possible business conflict in the primary, but it is fair game. And regardless of his promised temporary blind trust arrangement, a good hard look at his company’s past and future state bidding is likely inevitable in the general election.
And, as Phil Scott himself asks in his response tv ad to Lisman’s attack, “Who are you going to trust?” wherein he cites Governor Jim Douglas’s support as proof of his trustworthiness. Shall we trust Phil Scott, who promised his company wouldn’t bid on contracts he was politically involved in? Or the record of Dubois Construction’s bids on at least three such major contracts?
Trust shouldn’t be blind.