Local News

State Audit: DOT Workers Accepted Kickbacks, Violated Law

Posted February 21, 2006

— The state Department of Transportation will watch purchasing after a state audit found that seven workers bought overpriced supplies from a chemical company that offered them kickbacks of gift cards, golf balls and T-shirts.

The workers bought $11,477.45 worth of cleaning supplies from Stone Cold Chemicals Inc. between November 2001 and September 2003, according to a report released Monday by the Office of the State Auditor.

In exchange, the workers received at least $425.52 in gift cards and merchandise. The products bought by the state, including deicer and cleaning supplies, cost up to four times their market value, according to the audit.

A former supervisor for the DOT district that covers Anson, Cabarrus, Mecklenburg, Stanly and Union counties gave Stone Cold the most business of the workers audited. He ordered $5,642.08 of products and received gifts, including a Carolina Panthers football jersey and a dozen golf balls. The full value of his gifts from the company, however, wasn't included in the audit.

Three other employees in the same division also did business with Stone Cold, while two were from the district that includes Brunswick, Duplin, New Hanover, Onslow, Pender and Sampson counties. The seventh worker was based in the district containing Alexander, Catawba, Cleveland, Gaston, Iredell and Lincoln counties.

The North Carolina workers broke state law by accepting the gifts and auditors recommended disciplinary action against the six employees who remain with the Department of Transportation.

Auditors also recommended additional training in laws and policies governing the acceptance of gifts and favors by state employees.

Department leaders agree with the recommendations and appropriate disciplinary action will be taken, Transportation Secretary Lyndo Tippett said in a letter accompanying the audit. The department will also more closely manage purchasing.

Top executives of Stone Cold were charged in September 2003 with bribing state and local government workers to buy millions of dollars worth of its products. Nationwide, at least 2,000 public employees in 48 states accepted kickbacks from Stone Cold Chemicals, which was based in Loganville, Ga., and had large sales and distribution facilities in Ponce Inlet, Fla.

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