ON Kilter: The downside of advantage; or, how about those city contracts?

OPINION – Breaking news!

“County commissioners accused of ethical lapses regarding airport contracts will have to wait at least until May to have the complaints resolved despite two days of testimony before the state Ethics Commission that begin today.

”The four commissioners under scrutiny have said they welcome the chance to clear their names in the public forum. Instead they will have to watch silently this week as two slates of witnesses offer testimony that may show they deliberately gave airport contracts to close friends.”

Can you imagine waking up to that headline, that news bite, in St. George?

Fact is, it actually happened in Las Vegas and was reported in the Las Vegas Journal, although I’ve paraphrased it, but if you have lived in Southern Utah long enough, you are well aware that the commissioners, local leaders and legislators in this part of the state scarcely understand what it is to be on the downside of advantage.

That is because they rarely are.

Take the St. George Airport for example, where at least three of your elected city officials at the time were awarded lucrative contracts on a project they in part approved in council.

And understand something here, that very council also passed the legislation that made it legal for them to bid on such projects so, in point of fact and law, there was not wrongdoing on their part.

But, there are not many places in the country where this would pass without scrutiny or investigation and possible jail time for the offenders; as with the case in Las Vegas, where this kind of thing was not just unethical, but illegal.

And the question is why?

What is it about the predominant culture here that consistently refuses to question those who hold elected or appointed positions of authority?

With the assuredness of the saints, the majority of the constituency here placidly assume the best of these people in spite of evidence that suggests they may be using their positions for unfair advantage.

The local airport scenario is only one of many by which an intelligent mind will find itself confounded. When something so blatantly unethical as city officials being allowed to bid on public projects – awarded in part by their own votes – goes unanswered by the voting public, a greater damage is done to the community as a whole.

Those who would rightly be skeptical of the business dealings they are witnessing here will find themselves in a dilemma here as the Hans Christian Anderson abiding community assures them that those perpetrating these things have the best intentions. (What I’m likening this too, of course, is Anderson’s moral tale of The Emperor’s New Clothes.)

As this town progresses towards what some studies project as a population upwards of a half million people over the next 50 years, it naturally tips the scales from an existing population of people who are seemingly trained to not question things towards another that may be more inclined to question everything.

The airport and all of its subsequent subsidiary projects, which interestingly enough also find their way to contract awards to some of the same people, are but an example of what could arguably be called a litany of local projects predetermined to award profitable contracts to a select few belonging unofficially to an insiders group.

An insiders group who, say, might have owned the land the airport was built on.

What is more disconcerting to a counterculture group – those who question these things and call the insiders group to account – is not the notion that political corruption and corporate greed sometimes prevail within a community but that there is a ready acquiescence by the voting public to the insiders group behavior which in essence perpetuates it by doing nothing about it. This group, the counterculture group, yet bemoans and decries the injustice of heavy-handed politicians and corporate lobbyists in Washington, all the time doing nothing to curb that kind of behavior in their hometown where their voice is stronger.

Why the distinction?

I have questions. So should you.

See you out there.

Dallas Hyland is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @dallashyland

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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24 Comments

  • Wendy March 1, 2013 at 11:00 am

    Interesting article, but I wish you would be specific. What bids on airport projects were won by which commissioner, and which commissioner did benefit by the sale of the new airport land. The whole bidding on And voting on said bids does seem to be unethical if not illegal.

  • JJ Slice March 1, 2013 at 12:10 pm

    The more recent example: What did Jon Pike and Steve Urquhart gain by throwing Dixie Ambulance under the bus? Don’t stop there though. It is disgusting what those two elected officials did for their own personal benefit.

  • Bigger Bob March 1, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Oh, I’m not one to not question things…Infact, I as a citizen, am calling for an investigation to be done at City Hall! I think the current population is made up largely of ‘sheep’ and also largely of those who simply do not give a … about local politics, hence, it’s easy for the city government to do as THEY wish…

    Ed. ellipsis

  • Keep Our Freedom March 1, 2013 at 12:41 pm

    This is just like everything else in this city. Commissioner A has friends that work at Business Z so he give the bid to them. Firefighter B & C are volunteers but work at Sun City Glass, so they break out windows no where near the fire and then tell the victims, we can give you a bid on this. Or Commissioner D doesn’t like someone so they try to shut them down. Its all politics and who you know. Its too bad they can’t be held accountable.

    Should we get Gephardt?

  • just an observer March 1, 2013 at 1:50 pm

    Gephardt?

    How about the real deal journalist that wrote this story?

  • stg citizen March 1, 2013 at 1:57 pm

    Let’s see, landscaping airport contracts comes to mind

  • Phyllis Bean March 1, 2013 at 6:14 pm

    The airport is (still to this day) ridiculous and a ghost airport out in Butt %$#@ Egypt, losing flights instead of gaining them (new flight to Denver doesn’t count as added flight as we lost LA), and the City wanted to “repair” an inner-city hillside as of late? What a crock! I’m one old bag that will vote these crooked good ol’ boys OUT with a passion.

    • Preston March 1, 2013 at 10:44 pm

      You tell ’em old bag!

  • kkkkrrrr March 1, 2013 at 6:19 pm

    Hmmm instead of all this complaining and speculating about conspiracy, get involved in government and make a difference. Oh wait. No one would vote for any of you because you are the vocal minority that will never be happy. Most of us are pleases and satisfied with the leaders of our great communities. Get a life Dallas!

    • kkkkrrrr March 1, 2013 at 6:30 pm

      Oops I meant pleased. One other thought. If you all have this evidence of misconduct then make it public and hold people accountable. The problem with all of your gripes is it is all hearsay.

      • Preston March 1, 2013 at 10:50 pm

        Your funny as your contributing to the so called “vocal minority” behind anonymous name kkkkrrrr. Yup, seems your making a difference. Hypocrite…Figures

      • Snowfield March 2, 2013 at 1:51 pm

        Not all of us believe that corruption and profiteering is a scared right that should be respected with silence and obedience.

  • Curtis March 1, 2013 at 7:50 pm

    I agree with Wendy and kkkkrrr — more specificity please.
    What is the evidence of using positions to unfair advantage?
    Were the contracts competitively awarded? Were council members given inside information as to the bids of competitors?
    I realize space limitations on these opinion columns may not permit more expansive and detailed coverage but accusations of unethical behavior if not outright corruption by elected officials deserves detail than this

    • Joyce Kuzmanic March 1, 2013 at 8:25 pm

      Curtis, I wouldn’t presume to speak for Mr. Hyland – but this paragraph speaks in part to what you raise:
      “And understand something here, that very council also passed the legislation that made it legal for them to bid on such projects so, in point of fact and law, there was not wrongdoing on their part.”
      Highlighting it as a pull-quote for emphasis.
      Thank you for the question.

      • Big Bob March 1, 2013 at 10:53 pm

        Thankyou for setting things straight to your “uninformed” readers. Joyce, you do great work.

      • Curtis March 2, 2013 at 8:16 am

        Bidding on contracts by council members may not be illegal
        But if the contracts were awarded competitively and the council members did not have inside information, then where is the unfair advantage ??

        • just an observer March 2, 2013 at 8:38 am

          It is not legal in most of the rest of the country because of the conflict of interest in having elected officials who vote for and award projects, also personally bidding on them. The problem is that this council voted to make it legal, then voted in favor of the project, then got contracts on the project. You honestly do not see something amiss?

          • Curtis March 2, 2013 at 3:52 pm

            I absolutely do see something amiss. There is a perceived if not actual conflict of interest. I guess I am just not able to clearly pose my question. If the mayor’s company (just to pick a hypothetical example) got the contract as a sole source award rather than thru competition that would be an unfair advantage. If the major had access to information that not one else had such as the city’s cost estimate that would be an unfair advantage. If the mayor knew what other companies bid so he could underbid them that would be an unfair advantage. Did, as the result of an unfair advantage, the mayor’s company get the contract solely because he was on the city council?

        • ken March 3, 2013 at 8:53 am

          Good lord “if they didn’t have inside information” Curtis you seem to lack the basic insight into how city government works! Outstanding insight Curtis, NOT!!

  • Big Bob March 1, 2013 at 10:59 pm

    It so hard for the predominant culture to stand up and question their elected leaders or authority is because most of the longtime local cult-programmed folks are mere sheep. Do as they are told without question.

  • Ron C. de Weijze March 2, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Ethics turn into politics, when information that needs independent confirmation to be True and Good, is no longer publicly accessible and “should” be confirmed dependently of cronies and/or rejected independently of enemies, AS-IF this in-group mimicry equals independence of citizens, nonetheless caring for each other by confirming each other when and where possible, thereby maintaining a thriving community spirit. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mANvp-dEqog&list=FL3uIIw_TaqtkA6hEyDCGQZw&index=9

  • Liam March 2, 2013 at 11:47 am

    Mr. Hyland, I greatly appreciate your courage in addressing this 800-lb gorilla in our midst. Please continue the good fight. There are many of us out here who agree with your assessments of an insulated culture of questionable entitlements cloaked in a facade of righteousness, sanctimonious hypocrisy, unquestioning subservience to a centralized authority, and disdain for anyone, or anything, impertinent enough to suggest such a culture must change.

  • Democrat March 2, 2013 at 12:34 pm

    Good thing this “publication” is free. No one would pay for this type of wanna-be journalism. Does the editor always allow assumptions without reason or specifics to pass for artices? Opinion pieces should at least have reasonable and argumentative structure. It should be a sign when half the comments are on the lack of writing skill on the part of the author.

    • Liam March 3, 2013 at 11:19 am

      The comment by “Democrat” is so typical of this incestuous culture. Never address the issues; always attack the messenger. Mormonism has employed this tactic throughout its “colorful” history. Mormons are consummate historical revisionists. Unable to address the inconvenient and embarrassing historical record of Joe Smith and the myriad “shenanigans” of he and his cronies, Mormonism instead has sealed and sanitized their history to desperately re-invent themselves. Without fleeing to the Utah territory and essentially hermetically sealing themselves from the outside world, Mormonism would never have survived long enough for them to work their historical revisionism and ’emerge” decades later as a more acceptable phenomenon, with some of the weirder quirks tweaked away or repackaged.. It was never really about whether Joe Smith told the truth or not and what he really was, it was always about what he desperately wanted to be. And so it goes for this culture to this day. It matters not what the facts of Mormonism’s history are because the only thing that matters is what they really want to be, and what they so desperately want their history to be. And you can draw your own analogies with the cronyism that Mr. Hyland has described in this op-ed piece. It’s all about the very carefully constructed facade which facilitates the marketing of the product, i.e. the culture. Certainly, Mormonism is not the first culture to strenuously revise an inconvenient historical record, nor southern Utah markedly different than other local governmental entities in terms of dubious local political intrigue. But couple the Mormon facade of righteousness with such righteous indignation that Mormons are “above all of that” and that’s what Mr. Hyland is describing. He will be attacked for doing so. However, I applaud his courage for taking on the cultural machine.

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