Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

File photo of Kevin Fisher as a candidate.

In Kevin Fisher’s latest column, he expresses ire over the episode in which Richland County Council first gave the contract for managing hundreds of millions worth of roadwork to the out-of-state contractor ICA Engineering, then yanked it back.

But instead of being indignant that in initially awarding the contract, the council utterly blew off the concerns of the citizen panel appointed to be a watchdog over the spending of the penny tax, Kevin is mad that council responded to public outrage by calling for a do-over:

Indeed, while our local government is now conducting the people’s business in a manner that would make Vladimir Putin proud, the citizens of Richland County, S.C., USA should be ashamed.


I’d like to say we’re mad as hell and not going to take it anymore, but we always take it. I don’t know why that is, but it is. It’s an unusual civic tradition.

In the case of the award/unaward of that $50 million engineering and construction contract, I would love to have seen the winner/non-winner (ICA Engineering) take Richland County straight to court. However, the company has instead chosen to swallow hard and bid again, and if that is their business judgment I respect it and wish them well.

But I can assure County Council that if they had done the same thing to me, aggressive attorneys would have already been hired, a massive lawsuit filed and a legal colonoscopy would be underway on them both individually and as a public body….

First, an aside… I have to confess that I’m sort of unclear about what Peter Finch’s character was so mad about, or why it struck such a chord among the viewing public, in “Network.” Maybe it was clear to me when I saw it back in 1976, but I never liked the film enough to see it again, and it’s slipped my mind…

End of digression…

I’ll agree with Kevin that this is not the way public contracting usually goes. But then, public bodies seldom act with such disregard to a body created to make sure the public will is followed. Frankly, I don’t think the creation of such a body should have been necessary. But it was part of the deal that gave the council these funds to disburse, and a deal is a deal, as Kevin would apparently agree.

Kevin’s column was brought to my attention by Luther Battiste, who had a strong interest in having the bidding process start over, as a member of the local team that had scored higher than ICA, but didn’t get the contract. He wrote this to Kevin:

Mr. Fisher : I  read with great interest your column particularly because of my 15 years on Columbia City Council.  I actually agree with you much of the time and believe you raise the issues that need to be contemplated and discussed. I am part of the team that finished second in the voting for the contract to manage the ” penny tax” funds.  Our prime contractor is local and our team was local, diverse and extremely qualified. I think you missed the ” issue” in your recent column.  CECS followed the dictates of the Request for Proposal and was rated number  one by staff in their rating of the groups. ICA which is actually and out of state firm was rated third thirty points below CECS.  Richland County Council after receiving legal advice decided that there were problems with the process of awarding the contract.  I think you probably did not have all the facts when you reached the conclusion that ICA was mistreated and should pursue legal action. I hope you take my comments as constructive.  I look forward to reading future columns.




3 thoughts on “Fisher ticked off about the wrong end of the penny tax contracting debacle

  1. Silence

    I don’t profess to be an expert on government procurement regulations and laws, but it does strike me as odd that RC would declare a “do-over” on a $50M contract. Is council obligated to go with the bid that scores the best, or do they have the discretion to award the contract to whomever they prefer? Not having all the facts, I’m inclined to agree with Mr. Fisher. $50M is worth hiring a slew of good attorneys for.

  2. Brad Warthen Post author

    By the way, as I’ve done on previous posts about this, let me say that ADCO did some work for CECS, the group that Luther is with, several months ago. It was a brochure explaining who is in the group and their credentials.

    That was the last work we did for them, as far as I know.

  3. Barry

    I agree with Kevin. This “do over” is ludicrous. No one in the world believes that they original company (ICA Engineering) will win this time around. The locals are upset- and folks like Brad have cast something as smelling funny. They would be better to just drop out- and continue on building other local projects- with their local employees- just like they have for years here in South Carolina. (Ironic, huh?)

    There are now too many naive people that don’t understand construction and the nature of how the business works talking about “local” versus “not local.’

    and Mr. Batiste is an attorney, correct? He’s on “the team” for the local contractor? That means he’s one of their attorneys. Of course he has an interest– a financial one.

    Is this a case of the local folks trying to play “good ole boy politics” better than the “out of town” company?

    River Bluff High School (140 million dollar school complex) was built in Lexington and the general contractor was China Construction – owned by the Chinese Government.

    I was on that jobsite several times- and many- many- many local contractors were working on that site making good money. I know food vendors that went to that site everyday to sell lunches and such to workers). China made some money – and the last time I checked they aren’t local – but they do have local employees- good ole South Carolina born and bred employees- and a lot of locals worked out there and made a lot of money.

    You can spin this stuff any which way you want – and it’s clear some are spinning.


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