Augusta Commission member Grady Smith has withdrawn a bid his company made for work on a sheriff’s substation after media inquiries about a possible conflict of interest.
Smith, Super District 10 commissioner, said his company was building on a long-standing relationship with Richmond County Sheriff Ronnie Strength when Smith Bros. Mechanical made a $24,000 bid last month to do plumbing work at the substation in south Augusta.
The move violated the city’s ethics code, which prohibits commissioners from substantially benefitting from city procurement contracts, unless they apply for an exception.
Smith said his company’s bid was the lowest by $12,000 and that he had an application for the exception on Monday’s finance committee agenda but withdrew the request Wednesday.
“I don’t ever want anybody to question my integrity,” Smith said. “I want everybody to think I’m doing things right.”
Despite withdrawing the bid and exception request, Smith said he wanted to continue a discussion at the committee meeting Monday on commissioners performing city contract work. Several commissioners are contractors and if their companies can do the work for less, they shouldn’t be automatically excluded, Smith said.
“We ought to do whatever we can as commissioners to save the taxpayers of Richmond County,” Smith said. “I’m just trying to change the verbiage so it will be ethical.”
Smith has served since 1998 as chairman of the state board that licenses plumbers. The Augusta company he owns with his brother employs about 50 people and has performed work for the sheriff’s office, at Fort Gordon and on school construction projects, he said.