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Messenger finds no evidence council members have steered city business to their companies

 

By James Tilson

Staff writer

9-27-2018

 

MT PLEASANT—Claims that Mt. Pleasant councilmen are enriching themselves at city expense by steering city business to their companies do not appear to be valid based on a Sanpete Messenger review of transactions.

In recent weeks, the Messenger has received and published letters to the editor claiming  Councilman Kevin Stallings was steering business to Stalling Sheet Metal, his heating and air conditioning company, and Councilman Justin Atkinson was directing city business to his employer, Sunrise Engineering of Fillmore.

The Sanpete Messenger conducted an analysis to see whether any contracts awarded to the two businesses excluded other possible bids or cost the city more money than might be expected.

To do so, we made obtained the invoice records for Stallings Sheet Metal, for Sunrise Engineering, and for all other engineering firms doing work for the city from 2010 until present.

We also studied Mt Pleasant purchasing policies and conflict-of-interest statements. We conducted interviews with the people involved as well as people from other municipalities and engineering firms.

Regarding Atkinson, it should be noted he has no ownership position with Sunrise Engineering. Sunrise Engineering is a large engineering firm, with 12 offices scattered over four states and 250 employees. Atkinson is neither an executive nor a shareholder with the firm.

While an engineering firm owner or executive may have responsibilities for finding business for the firm and be compensated for doing so, Atkinson does not hold that type of position with Sunrise. His title is “project manager.” As such, he receives no extra compensation for procuring new business, although bringing in business could help with advance in the company.

The Utah Legislature has passed a law requiring elected officials to sign conflict-of-interest statements disclosing any conflict they may have between their private financial interests and government activities. Atkinson disclosed his position with Sunrise in his conflict-of-interest statement, which is on file with the city. He has recused himself from city council votes in which Sunrise was a possible beneficiary.

Kevin Stallings, however, is an owner of Stallings Sheet Metal. Even though he retired in 2014 and turned management over to his son, Chet, Stallings retains an ownership interest. So any benefit to Stallings Sheet Metal from work for Mt. Pleasant City would benefit Stallings. Stallings has also filed a conflict-of-interest statement with the city disclosing his relationship with Stallings Sheet Metal.

An examination reveals the dollar volume of Sunrise Engineering and Stallings Sheet Metal invoices after Stallings and Atkinson came on the council were not out of the ordinary.

Eight engineering firms submitted invoices to Mt. Pleasant City between 2010 and August 2018. Besides Sunrise, the main firms were Jones & DeMille and JUB Engineering.          During that time period, Sunrise Engineering had invoices totaling $192,555.55. Jones & DeMille’s total invoices came to $602,021.06. JUB Engineering invoiced the city for $82,574.15; however, city officials say that JUB will soon be involved in a $15 million water project funded by grant money, which will increase the company’s invoice total significantly.

The invoice totals for Sunrise Engineering are within the range of transactions between the city and other engineering firms. Sunrise is far from the largest provider of engineering services to the city.

Stallings Sheet Metal’s invoices from 2010 to Aug. 2018 came to $379,964.12. However,