Blind trust in Phil Scott

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.” Philscottphilscott

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  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.

8 thoughts on “Blind trust in Phil Scott

  1. I don’t follow the hysteria here. If Dubolis bids on state contracts and they are the low bidder, I would want the contract awarded to them as long as they had been vetted properly and declared capable of satisfactorily completing the work. We can not want government to be frugal and at the same time decide to rule out a bidder or a set of bidders. As the story states Dubois bid on three projects and was not awarded a contract for any of the three, There is no fire in this furnace. Trying to make a non-issue an issue does not necessarily do so.

    1. Huh, hysteria? I don’t think I even used any exclamation marks!

      This is about the appearance of a conflict of interest- Scott lobbied for tax payer funding for a specific type of project, then bid for jobs made possible by those funds. Scott was in a position to derive personal benefit from his official actions.
      Scott’s action contradict his statement to Vtdigger: 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.
      And he wanted these jobs, as evidenced by the fact that he took the time, notably over several years (as state senator and Lite Gov.) to place bids on them. Whether he won them or not- the appearance of a conflict exists

  2. I feel like Johnny One Note here, but:

    If Phil Scott regards direct control of DuBois as a conflict of interest as governor, why doesn’t he regard it as a conflict as Lieutenant Governor?

    The whole thing is ridiculous. He has been in a conflict of interest his entire political career, in plain sight, and everyone has ignored it. He proposes to put a single, known entity in a “blind” trust, let it do business with state government, and retrieve it intact after he leaves office. Why wasn’t he laughed out of the room when he first proposed the plan?

    I guess because we are such saps in this state. “Aw, it’s just good ol’ Phil. He’s a good guy.” And I’m sure he is a good guy, in general. But that’s not how transparency and government ethics are supposed to work. Nobody gets the “Aw, shucks” exemption. Except in Vermont, where everybody gets the “Aw, shucks” exemption.

    We need better rules and an independent standing committee on government ethics. With an independent prosecutor. If they have little to do, that’s great, but most guards have little to do most of the time.

    1. First, to establish the record, I have never voted for Phil Scott and have no plans to do so on Tuesday.

      My concern is that the media is creating an issue here that fails the smell test, “the appearance of a conflict exists.” Those who want an appearance of a conflict to exist will use their creative imagination to explain such. However, that creative expression does not make it so.

      Dubois Construction has bid on a few state contracts. The operative word here is bid – bid in a competitive process. All Vermonters encourage competitive bidding as a process that is in the best interest of the taxpayers. The act of bidding is not a conflict of interest.

      Of one wants to construct a conflict or interest scenario, one needs to document that Dubois Construction was somehow given preference in a competitive process. The writer of this article makes no such claim and provides no such evidence. There are important issues for Vermont to tackle. Ensuring adherence to best-practice competitive bidding principles may be one of those issues. However, posting a creative writing exercise is probably not.

      1. How about if I explain like this-
        As state sen. Phil Scott arranged to put a big fish (public funds)in a barrel and then Dubois Const.(his own business)made several efforts to catch it for their lunch.

  3. Yep you’re right — Scotts’ like a new shiny car, beaming with hope & inspiration so soft & plainspoken, charming & lovable — what a dreamboat — does make me overlook the tiny scratches. One look at him or Matt Dunne gives me hope for the future.

    It’s like the honeymoon time. Love is blind — marriage is an eyeopener. Siblings all upper middle class & divorced. I’m not b/c we can’t afford it.

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