Originally created 11/13/97

FBI probes Augusta man's sales to county



CHESTER, S.C. -- The FBI is investigating dealings between an Augusta businessman and officials from Chester County, a North Carolina newspaper reports.

FBI spokesman Dick Watkins said agents are checking for possible criminal wrongdoing in dealings between Augusta businessman B.R. Tadlock and Chester County Supervisor Carlisle Roddey, according to a story in The Charlotte Observer. Both men say there was none.

The newspaper, after analyzing Chester County purchasing reports, found that the county had been paying Mr. Tadlock as much as a 1,000 percent markup for supplies such as snow melting crystals, hand towels and soap.

Mr. Roddey, who has been in charge of the county government for 23 years, said the explanation may be nothing more than incompetence. "I'm stupid because I let things get away from me," he said.

Mr. Tadlock did not deny the price markups and does not apologize for being a businessman. He said in the 23 years he has done business with Chester County, no one forced the county to make a purchase.

"You won't find anything wrong with what I've done," he said. "What I have done is shipped and billed and collected for what they ordered. ... I'm not going to tell a customer, `Don't buy from me. You're buying too much."'

The county paid him $2.64 million for cleaning supplies and chemicals in the last five years without ever seeking bids.

Mr. Roddey said he did not realize Mr. Tadlock was getting so much money. He said he approved the payments, but never reviewed what was ordered or received, or the cost.

He said he never noticed that most items on Mr. Tadlock's invoices last fiscal year were below the $800 threshold that requires bids.

Mr. Tadlock has been calling on the county since 1974, when Mr. Roddey was first elected. Mr. Roddey said he directed Mr. Tadlock to department heads at that time.

"I never dealt with him. I don't have time to deal with salesmen. I should have," he said.

The newspaper said that in some cases the county did not need what it paid for. Maintenance employee Wardell Mills and landfill manager Terry McCorkle, the workers who signed for almost all the goods last fiscal year, said Mr. Tadlock delivered some knit rags and hand towels unsolicited.

"I didn't sell them anything they didn't order," Mr. Tadlock said. "They signed for it and they paid me."

County Councilman Johnny Weir said he also found a box of white rags and two cans of degreaser the county had ordered at a local restaurant.

Chester County now has a finance director and in September the council formed a finance committee, which created the new positions of personnel director and purchasing agent. This year, Chester County expects to spend only $30,000 for cleaning supplies and chemicals.