Phil’s Conflict (UPDATED)

UPDATE: He did it! He chose Option 1A — he will sell his share in Dubois Construction if he wins the governorship. Full credit to him for doing the right thing. And no, I don’t feel sorry for him possibly having to exit the family firm he’s spent most of his adult life in; his share of the firm is worth two and a half million dollars. That’ll buy an awful lot of binkies. 

_____________________

Kudos to Mr. Leadership Phil Scott for unveiling his conflict-of-interest fix at the friendliest possible venue — his construction firm’s annual picnic. Ah yes: burgers, dogs, potato salad, Daddy Pops, frisbees, sack races, football tossin’, and the long-awaited announcement of how he will handle the inherent conflict of owning a firm that regularly bids on state contracts.

“One of these things is not like the others…”

This isn’t the first time he’s tried to settle this particular issue, which tells me his past solutions have failed to satisfy. The fact that he’ll make this announcement before a crowd of family, friends, and folks on his payroll doesn’t fill me with confidence about how he’ll handle it this time.

Heck, I don’t know if he’ll even take questions. Even if there is an opportunity, the occasion certainly won’t be conducive to aggressive questioning; any reporters who get uppity are likely to be shouted down by the Scottophiliac audience.

All of which leads me to expect some kind of half-assed, modestly tweaked version of his laughable “blind trust.” If so, well, he might have to try yet again.

In my mind, there are only two credible choices for him. That is, if he really wants to eliminate any appearance of conflict. I don’t expect him to choose either one.

1. Sell his stake in the firm. That would provide a complete and convincing separation, even though Dubois Construction would presumably remain a family business. The sale would leave him independently wealthy (net worth over $3 million, almost entirely from his ownership share). And if he wanted to get back into the business after he’s done with politics, I doubt he’d have any problem getting a job with the firm, or some other Vermont contractor.

And really, the move would make sense for the firm. It’s not like he’ll be able to split time between the governorship and Dubois, as he has done while drawing a full-time salary as Lieutenant Governor.

1a. Variant on the above. He holds off on selling his share until after the election. If he loses, he could return to the family business.

2. Dubois Construction promises not to bid on any state contracts or be a subcontractor on any state-funded project as long as Phil Scott is governor. This could be very damaging to the business. I don’t know how much of their work is publicly funded, but I suspect they’d have a hard time making ends meet without those lucrative road jobs.

That’s it, as far as I can see. The current “blind trust” is a joke. Even if he severs all direct ties with Dubois, everybody knows he’s a half-owner whose entire net worth is dependent on the firm’s continued success. Every legislator, every state employee, and every political appointee will know who’s behind Dubois Construction.

I honestly don’t believe that Governor Scott would tip the scales in any way. But could his appointees be expected to be completely impartial in awarding contracts?

At the very least, it’s practically a textbook definition of “conflict of interest.”

What do I expect from him on Saturday? Well, he might well surprise me and announce his divestiture, in which case I will give him full credit for doing the right thing. More likely, I think, is that he’ll devise some tougher-appearing version of “blind trust”. I don’t know what that would look like, but I do know it wouldn’t pass muster with any real ethics standards.

We shall see. In the meantime, I’m looking forward to a gaggle of reporters standing awkwardly on the sidelines of the Dubois Staff Hoedown, waiting for Good Old Phil to take the microphone.

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12 thoughts on “Phil’s Conflict (UPDATED)

  1. Steve B.

    DuBois could also offer to publicly post all contract bids, bids accepted, work in progress and projects completed. A place were the public can go to see for ourselves what DuBois is up to. Scott always says he’s about being transparent, so prove it now. What do Scott and DuBois have to hide right? Practice what you preach Phillip.

    Reply
  2. g2-4defad001ff5faec21d31d0bd81192f6

    It would appear to be 1a.

    Phil Scott to Announce Full Separation from Business if Elected
    Middlesex, Vt. – At the 70th anniversary celebration of his family business, Phil Scott will announce his plan for a full and complete separation from the 70-year-old central Vermont construction company he has co-owned and run for more than 30 years, if he is elected Governor.

    “I first ran for the Senate to bring the voice of small businesses and their employees to Montpelier. Even though I would have never guessed it then, I have come to understand that this work — the work of making sure the voice of every working Vermonter, every employer, and every family is heard in Montpelier — is needed now more than ever,” Scott said. “That’s why, after 6 years of watching the economy and affordability be put on the back burner, I decided to step up and run for Governor. And I want every Vermonter to know that I will be a full-time Governor, focused entirely on serving the people of our state and fully committed to restoring the faith and trust in government that has been lost in the last 6 years.”

    WHEN: Saturday, September 24th, 2016 – 12:00 p.m.

    WHERE: DuBois Construction, 46 Three Mile Bridge Road, Middlesex

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  3. Shah

    Whoa! what do you have against “football tossin'” John?! Hating on Daddy Pops and frisbee, fine, but football tossin’? That would earn you a ‘C’mon Man’ from Ditka quicker than Handy fries up an egg

    Reply
  4. Walter Carpenter

    “This could be very damaging to the business. I don’t know how much of their work is publicly funded, but I suspect they’d have a hard time making ends meet without those lucrative road jobs.”

    I suspect that there are more of these companies like Dubois who make their living off of state contracts and criticize “bug guv’mnt.”

    Reply
      1. Jason Loomis

        Yeah, I’m sure he won’t still be steering government contracts their way. Or his lackies will be for him. Watch who gets transportation if Scott is elected. Still wonder why what’s good for Phil isn’t good for anyone else. He’s always so upset about people taking advantage of government and he has been doing it for years, while IN government. Right under their noses and not a peep. Tear the GOBN down.

      2. Shah

        Just because he made the decision he did does not mean he truly believes in it. You know what assuming does.

    1. eddo

      This from the Vermont Agency of Administration website’s FAQ page:
      “Unlike many jurisdictions, which are required to award contracts to the lowest bidder, in Vermont we evaluate bids based on a variety of factors such as quality, ease of supply, and environmental impact, in order to determine which proposal will provide the best value to the state.”

      And this feom VT Digger:
      “The Vermont State Auditor says five state agencies have awarded too many no-bid contracts to private companies. ….In a report released on Monday, the auditor’s office showed that of nearly 1,000 contracts across five agencies and departments no-bid agreements accounted for 41 percent of contracts awarded by the agencies to private companies. The total amount awarded to sole source bidders was $68 million in fiscal year 2015, or 27 percent of all contracts.”

      And this from the Agency of Transportation:
      “9.02 SECRETARY’S AUTHORITY TO GRANT EXCEPTIONS
      The Secretary has authority to grant exceptions to these Policies and Procedures when, in his/her sole discretion, it is determined to be in the best interest of the State.”
      ————————-
      None of this means Scott, nor any State official, has ever taken advantage of these rules for unethical reasons, but tell us again who should be calling for education and writing ignorant statements?

      Reply
    2. Walter Carpenter

      “All vermont bids are determined on the lowest bid. You really should educate yourself before writing ignorant statements.”

      As someone who was once contractor, I well understood the “determined on the lowest bid,” state or otherwise. The statement/question still stands

      Reply
  5. Robert Haskins

    Selling his interest in Dubois takes the conflict-of-interest argument away from Minter, it’s impossible to convince Vermonters Scott is some kind of right-wing anti-woman, anti-gay Republican. Can’t bash him on social or ethics issues, so what’s Minter’s path to a win now? The answer, much to the displeasure of the VTDEMs, is she doesn’t have one.

    Wait till the NRA jumps in with a million dollar spend tagging gun grabber Sue, she’ll lose by Lisman numbers and will be remembered for running the most passionless campaign since fellow trust funder Gaye Symington in 08′.

    Reply

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