My wife did not receive an advantage from the County regarding her business.
The fact that information included in Grand Jury reports, in general, are a product of what is placed before them was evident by the fact that this Grand Jury report went out of its way to include an opinion from a current commissioner on whether a previous Ethics Commission had rendered a correct opinion ruling that there would not be a conflict were my wife to place a bid on certain non-county work. This particular commissioner disagreed with the opinion, but why was his point of view included while the opinion of others who agreed with the ruling were not? Had this particular commissioner agreed with the decision, would it be included in the report?
This area was perhaps the most disturbing of anything in the report. The report was worded in such a way as to lead media outlets to suggest that my wife was building her business through improper means. Actually, my wife started her business as a single mom and did it the old fashioned way – through hard work. She was alone, with a three year old and an infant. She could have gone on welfare, but did not. She networked, took out massive loans, and took on great risks. Yet, we’ve had to endure inaccurate innuendo that she received county contracts or that I did something inappropriate to build her business. One media outlet website stated that I “helped firms owned by [my] wife gain contracts.” The undisputed fact is that she NEVER received a contract from the county. Indeed my administration barred the County from even taking a bid from her companies.
The very nature of her medical transcription company, which was founded long before I became County Executive, is to provide transcription services to hospitals and medical centers. When an opportunity to bid on hospital work came about, there would be no reason she should be blocked from doing so since she was not contracting with the county.
And what if there is even less of a nexus? Should the spouse of a state official be barred from working as a public school teacher just because that school receives some state aid? Should the spouse of an official who has been a nurse all his or her professional life have to quit his or her job in a hospital because that hospital may get government aid? I think most people would believe not.
Just to be sure, she went through the extra step of seeking an opinion from the Ethics Commission, which unanimously ruled that no conflict existed so long as she did not use my name – which she never did. Yet, it was suggested in the press, that I controlled the commissioners who voted on the issue. What was not mentioned is that two of the three commissioners were appointed in the previous Gaffney administration.
This is one of those situations that comes under the heading “Damned if you do, damned if you don’t.” If my wife did not seek an ethics opinion, she and I would have been criticized for not vetting the issue. Yet once you get a decision, you are wrongly criticized by those who baselessly refuse to accept it.