It’s not just Cuyahoga County’s corruption anymore. The Ohio Department of Transportation has been keeping cozy through our snowy winters by favoring, and receiving favors from, salt-suppliers Cargill and Morton, the state Inspector General’s office reported today. This warm relationship, complete with sham bidding, caused taxpayers here to pay the 2 companies up to 4,000 percent more for less-slick highways than folks in neighboring states paid them.
First for the favors. Service directors in Bedford Heights, Akron, and Twinsburg, along with ODOT assistant maintenance administrator Diana Clonch, got $4,700 worth of Brown’s tickets, meals, and greens fees. Those were supplied by Cargill account manager Tony DiPietro, formerly an ODOT assistant deputy director in Garfield Heights. A Granger Trucking VP, Frank Bianchi, also spent thousands entertaining a variety of public officials throughout northeast Ohio saying it was on Cargill’s behalf. Cargill says it wasn’t.
ODOT paid the kindness forward and locked all other suppliers out of the state’s salt contracts. The Cargill/Morton duopoly helped by divvying up our 88 counties in a sort of gentlemen’s agreement; each would deliberately bid too high on contracts they knew the other supplier wanted. The bidding arrangement has been going on for roughly a decade, during which the Inspector General estimates that ODOT overpaid Cargill and Morton between $47 and $59 million.
Cargill and Morton also stiffed the state’s “Buy Ohio” contract policy. There were 7 instances of Morton substituting Louisiana salt for the home-mined variety, and in 10 cases, Morton sprinkled our roads with white stuff from Canada, Chile, and the Bahamas. In another 115 cases, Cargill delivered certified Ohio salt that wasn’t from Ohio.
ODOT has 60 days to explain how they intend to fix things. —
Maude L. Campbell