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SALT LAKE CITY -- Gov. Gary Herbert has said a huge campaign donation did not help a construction company land the giant Interstate 15 reconstruction project in Utah County.
However, a series of e-mails obtained by KSL and the Deseret News show the governor's campaign took steps to make sure the governor knew the contractor in question was an important contributor.
Herbert vehemently disagrees that the e-mails show anything other than a routine and polite contact with a contributor. He says the release of the e-mails themselves shows his administration is being fully open and transparent.
Sept. 14, 2009- Gov. Herbert meets with Guy Wadsworth
Oct. 5, 2009- $50,000 donation from Wadsworth Bros. Const.
Oct. 27, 2009- $10,000 donation from Ames Const.
Nov. 2, 2009- $5,000 donation from Ralph Wadsworth
Nov. 10, 2009- Mike Deaver e-mail to Ginger Fairbanks about Wadsworth meeting
Nov. 12, 2009- Gov. Herbert meets with Guy Wadsworth
Dec. 9, 2009- Utah awards Provo River I-15 contract to Provo River Constructors*
Dec. 9, 2009- Jason Perry e-mail to Mike Deaver about selection of I-15 CORE contractor
March 29, 2010- Gov. Herbert holds event with project workers
June 10, 2010- $10,000 donation from Fluor Corp.
June 18, 2010- $7,500 donation from Ames Const.
Total from Provo River Constructors=$82,500**
*Fluor Corporation, Wadsworth Brothers Construction, Ames Construction, and Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction make up Provo River Constructors.
**$65,000 before contract was awarded
Last fall, contractor Guy Wadsworth had two meetings with the governor at the State Capitol Building. Around the same time, he gave the Herbert campaign $50,000. Soon after, his team won the I-15 CORE rebuild project.
A series of e-mails released by the governor's office provide new behind-the-scenes details:
- September 14, 2009: Herbert's first meeting with Wadsworth, who is apparently upset his firm lost another contract on a St. George project. Utah Department of Transportation Executive Director John Njord briefed the governor in an e-mail, saying: "Guy will tell the governor that the process wasn't fair. ... My team ... said Guy simply blew the proposal and was less aggressive than the contractor selected." [CLICK HERE to read the full e-mail exchange]
"It's not at all uncommon for cabinet members to see a meeting on the governor's calendar, have had some involvement with the subject of the meeting, and send an e-mail that says ‘just so you're aware, this may or may not come up,'" Angie Welling, spokeswoman for Gov. Herbert, tells KSL.
- October 5, 2009: There is no record of what was discussed in the meeting, but Wadsworth becomes one of Herbert's top campaign donors, giving $50,000.
- November 10, 2009: Mike Deaver, an event planner and Herbert campaign fundraiser who had arranged the earlier Wadsworth-Herbert meeting, e-mailed Ginger Fairbanks, the governor's communications coordinator. The topic: a second Herbert-Wadsworth meeting about to take place in Herbert's office. Deaver writes: "... It will be about transportation, construction and issues within the state ..." and "the governor should remember Guy was one of the $50,000 donors to the gala and is a first-time political donor."
In a phone interview, when KSL asked if there was any link between the campaign money and the I-15 bid, Deaver said, "I can assure you there wasn't and there never ever would be any promises discussed in conjunction with donations ... It's ludicrous to think any of us would ever delve into that."
- December 9, 2009: A month after the meeting, Wadsworth's team, Provo River Constructors (PRC), won the I-15 CORE rebuild -- a decision UDOT's chief says had nothing to do with the team's campaign contributions. He says PRC simply had the best bid. [CLICK HERE to read the full e-mail exchange]
"It didn't influence our decision at all," Njord told KSL two weeks ago.
The day PRC was chosen, UDOT issued a press release at 1:42 p.m. announcing the selection. Just one minute later, Jason Perry, the governor's chief of staff, forwarded the news, attaching the press release, to Deaver.
"My understanding is Mike had asked Jason to let him know when the contract was awarded," Welling says. "Jason forwarded a press release that also went out widely to you and your station and everyone else."
"Keep in mind, this is all coming because we're open and transparent," Herbert says. "It's not like we're hiding anything. If I wanted to do anything sinister, this wouldn't be on any record that anyone could find."
KSL has made numerous attempts to speak with I-15 contractor Guy Wadsworth. A company representative tells us he's out of town and unavailable for comment.
For an extended interview with the governor and more details on this story, check out Wednesday's Deseret News.
Story compiled with contributions from John Daley and Lisa Riley Roche.