Mayor raised intitial concern
At last week's City Commission meeting, Mayor Hugh Coomer questioned whether Hamner and City Manager Paul Stansbury violated sections of the ethics code pertaining to personal honesty and integrity and conflict of interest in contracts.
The controversy arose after Stansbury asked Hamner’s interior design business, Cottage Interiors, along with two other local businesses, for written quotes for blinds in the new building.
Hamner’s quote came in at $3,689, which she told the ethics board included only the cost of materials and installation.
Wilcher Interiors submitted bids ranging from $4,145 to $4,995 and Martin-Durr-Caldwell submitted a bid for $5,258 plus installation.
During Monday’s ethics meeting, Stansbury said he was aware that Hamner had done work before at cost, but said he did not ask her to do so when he requested a quote.
The only mention of the transaction at a public meeting came after the blinds had been purchased and installed, a practice Stansbury said is the norm for smaller purchases.
At the July 12 City Commission meeting, Hamner abstained from the vote on the city’s bill list, explaining that her business was on the list, but there was no discussion of the details of the services rendered or the other quotes.
Not obligated to get written quotes
According to the city’s purchasing guidelines, Stansbury was not obligated to ask for written quotes because the estimated cost for the blinds was below $5,000 and there is no specific prohibition against a city commissioner offering a quote.
Coomer has cited Sec. 2-264 relating to inspiring public trust in government and 2-269, which deals with conflict of interest in contracts.
In speaking to the ethics board during Monday’s meeting, Hamner recounted several instances over the years, including during her tenure as chairwoman of the Danville-Boyle County Planning and Zoning Commission, when she had done work for organizations supported by tax dollars.
Emphasizing that she did not profit from the sale, Hamner said she was only doing what she and other business people have done for the city over many years, recalling that business owners built the first water and sewer systems in the city.
Hamner said she was happy that the ethics board did not find her in violation, but acknowledged that the situation may have been helped had a fuller explanation of the transaction been given during the July 12 meeting.
Stansbury said he would still have asked Hamner for a quote, but also said the city will consider making more clear guidelines about getting quotes from city officials.
“While we were within our policies, I agree with the interpretation of the ethics board that there are improvements that can be made if only to avoid things like this in the future,” Stansbury said. “We will dedicate ourselves to implementing their suggestions and there is nothing that was suggested we can’t do or are unwilling to do.”