Board member loses contract

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Bids are being called again for lawn mowing services at Marshall County government buildings, several county commissioners have said because a school board member hired for the job didn't comply with contract requirements.

"You all can do whatever you want, but I took this job to do something right for the county," school board member Curt Denton told county commissioners on the Building Committee during their recent meeting in the Courthouse annex. "I'm saving the county $7,000."

Savings weren't disputed, but Denton failed to obtain workers compensation insurance and thereby put the county at risk if there had been an accident with personal injury requiring expensive medical treatment.

"Mr. Denton had the contract for the mowing," Commissioner Mickey King, chairman of the Building Committee, said. "On Oct. 6, we voted to approve his contract, but he was to get workers comp by Nov. 1. Mr. Denton does not have workers comp.

"I've asked our attorney about what we can do," King told the committee when opening he subject for discussion.

He'd also spoken with County Budget Director Freda Terry about consequences from the situation when county financial records are audited and examined by the Comptroller of the State Treasury.

"In October, commissioners voted to tentatively award the contract" County Attorney Ginger Shofner said. "Apparently, Mr. Denton has a technical problem...

"Given that there was controversy over this bid, you could award to the next lowest bidder," Shofner said, "but my recommendation is that you clean it at the beginning."

Repeating what those bidders were told months ago, King said they'd have to have insurance, but officials thought Denton would comply if he were given an opportunity to work.

"I thought he'd get it out of good faith," King said.

The budget director interjected, "Audit says, 'Next time there won't be an exception.'"

King noted another bidder didn't have insurance when bids were opened.

At the time, businessmen and others argued that it seemed unfair for the county to insist that a lawn mowing service have workers compensation insurance just to submit a bid because it could be money spent on a premium that wouldn't be used if the business failed to win the bid.

But Denton's bid was selected and he was given time and Commissioner Jimmy Wolaver turned to Denton during the meeting and said, "Surely you would have known to say something by November.

By that time, Denton's service had been mowing the courthouse lawn and other lawns at county buildings such as the Hardison Annex.

"We can do the blame thing for days," Commissioner Mary Ann Neill said. "But when you have a contract to do something, it's to be done...

"There's too much competition out there" to make exceptions, she said.

Commissioner Don Ledford moved to rebid the mowing contract and the vote was unanimous. Bids are to be opened at 5:30 p.m. Jan. 21.