Claggett defends his vote to award contract to brotherCounty commission chairman: "You can take my money and my property, but when you take my character … that really teed me off.”
By: Anna Jauhola, The Daily Republic
Davison County Commission Chairman John Claggett defended himself Tuesday against questions raised since his vote to award a county contract to his brother’s business.
Specifically, he criticized The Daily Republic’s reporting on the issue.
“There was no problem with what we did,” Claggett said during Tuesday’s commission meeting at the courthouse in Mitchell. “When you read through the article, you know where I sit. You can take my money and my property, but when you take my character … that really teed me off.”
The commission awarded the $8,900 contract for jail surveillance equipment last Tuesday to Aurora Security Products, which is owned by John Claggett’s brother, Paul Claggett.
The day of the vote, the commission held its discussion about the issue in a hallway in the county jail during a tour of the facility. The commission also voted on the matter in the hallway without looking at the paperwork submitted by Jail Administrator Don Radel, Claggett said this Tuesday. Claggett didn’t initially realize the company he was voting on was his brother’s, he said.
The Daily Republic subsequently learned the identity of the company and its owner and published a story about it Friday.
Claggett said this Tuesday that the article should not have included comments from three other commissioners — Kim Weitela, Randy Reider and Gerald Weiss — because “it muddies the waters.”
Claggett did not rescind his vote for the project because, he said, he does not have a financial interest in his brother’s company and the rest of the commission did not find a conflict of interest in Claggett participating in the discussion and vote on the contract.
“The point is, by law, I feel I was fully within the guidelines,” he said.
State law says each elected official “shall decide if any potential conflict of interest requires such official to be disqualified from participating in discussion or voting.”
“However,” the law continues, “no such official may participate in discussing or vote on an issue if the following circumstances apply: 1) The official has a direct pecuniary interest in the matter before the governing body; or 2) At least two-thirds of the governing body votes that an official has an identifiable conflict of interest that should prohibit such official from voting on a specific matter.”
Commissioner Denny Kiner said The Daily Republic’s reporting on the issue was “ridiculous.”
Reider brought up the possibility of having to abstain from votes on paying hospital bills in the future, because his wife works at Avera Queen of Peace. Weiss echoed the thought, saying the commission often discusses agriculture and road improvements, and he’s a farmer who wants good roads.
“I think we can see some potential for conflict of interest in situations, but the consensus from the commissioners is we were voting for information Don (Radel) got,” Claggett said.
The commissioners agreed they learned from the experience, however.
“When we do this again in other venues, when we’re off-site, we need to have all our paperwork with us, because that was our biggest fault,” Claggett said.
“When we do go off-site, we should bring our business back here,” he added, referring to the commissioners’ room at the courthouse.
In other business Tuesday, the commission:
* Approved advertising for asbestos removal at the former Central Electric building and set the deadline for accepting bids for the project. The county will accept bids through 5 p.m. Feb. 4.
* Heard from Gloria Hanson, a military veteran, who informed the commission Rep. Stace Nelson, R-Fulton, is backing a bill in the Legislature to create a state veterans cemetery in Davison County. She asked for the commission’s support should the bill be successful.
* Denied 17 welfare requests.
* Approved paying $77,894.25 to Avera Queen of Peace for indigent care claims from 2011, as the result of negotiations with Avera .
* Approved the hiring of two part-time corrections officers, each at $11.40 per hour, with a raise of 50 cents after a probationary period.
* Approved the appointment of Dave Miles as a part-time deputy for the Davison County Sheriff’s office at $13.25 per hour. Miles recently retired as sheriff.
* Approved the resignation of corrections officer Lynn Smith effective Jan. 29.
As the board of adjustment, the commissioners:
* Approved a variance with an agriculture covenant for a 10-acre lot to separate the residence from agricultural land, as requested by Mary K. Puetz.