By Bill Britt
Alabama Political Reporter
MONTGOMERY— In an unbroken stream dating back to July 2007, Sen. Lee Davidson Marbury “Trip” Pittman (R-Daphne) and former Baldwin County Commissioner Bob James, have held a lucrative debris removal contract awarded by the city of Fairhope. The million plus contract mostly being held by Pittman Tractor Co., owned by Pittman.
The company, organized in Baldwin County by Pittman in 1988, is a heavy equipment wholesaler, carrying dozers, excavators, asphalt pavers, and concrete equipment, just to name a few. Far from an average tractor company, it also offers debris removal, boom deployment, and other services which attract government contracts.
The lucrative Fairhope debris removal contract was awarded to Pittman Tractor Co., the same year Pittman won election to Senate District 32, which encompasses a large portion of southern Baldwin County, and the County’s Eastern Shore area. Pittman won in a special election to replace former Senator Bradley Byrne, defeating Alabama State School Board member Randy McKinney in the Republican runoff.
The first debris removal contract with Pittman Tractor Co., ran from July 2007 to July 2010. The contract was then handed over to Pittman’s business partner James’ James Bros. Excavating, which held the contract from July 2010 to July 2012.
Two weeks prior to the Fairhope City Council’s award of the competitively bid debris removal contract to James Bros. Excavating, the council awarded a boom deployment contract with Pittman Tractor in excess of $630,000, which came from BP oil spill response funds.
At the time the contract was awarded to James Bros. Excavating, James made a Republican runoff in which he would defeat the incumbent county commissioner. It is also relevant to note that in winning the $1.16 million dollar contract, James Bros. Excavating won the contract over the second lowest bid, posted by Bamaco Inc. at $1,162,482, by a mere $350.
The debris removal contract was returned to Pittman Tractor Co. in 2012 after the James Bros. lapsed and continued to July 2014.
In July of this year Pittman’s company renewed the $1,244,160 contract.
At a work session of the Fairhope City Council in late May 2015, when it was revealed that Pittman Tractor Co., was once again the low bidder on the city’s disaster response/debris removal contract. One local blog reported that city councilman Jack Burrell questioned the structure of the proposed contract itself. He thought renewal options excessively favored the contractor: “Why do we put ourselves in these positions?” Burrell is said to have asked Mayor Tim Kant and the city’s finance director and treasurer signed off on recommending approval.
At the next called meeting of the the Fairhope City Council on June 8, 2015, the council again awarded its ongoing debris removal contract to Pittman Tractor Co.
Minutes from the meeting indicate that a letter from the Alabama Ethics Commission ostensibly “clearing” Pittman to pursue local government contract work was brought up during discussion.
Fairhope’s purchasing manager, Dan Ames, also revealed during the meeting that another bidder questioned the city’s awarding of the contract to Pittman’s company, and appeared at the purchasing manager’s office “unexpected to look at the bids.”
At the time, Gulf Coast News Today reported that “a general contractor’s license was required to bid the work, and prospective companies had to provide documents showing they had experience in managing a citywide clean up operation and operating a disaster debris reduction site during the past seven years.”
In a December 8, 2010, letter from Fairhope political activist Paul Ripp to the Alabama License Board for General Contractors in Montgomery, Ripp informs the board that a complaint has been filed with the Alabama Ethics Commission over Pittman’s contract with the City of Fairhope. He points out that the City of Fairhope requires a company to hold a general contractor’s license for any “emergency work.” In his letter, Ripp contended that Pittman nor his company, Pittman Tractor, which specializes in wholesale tractor sales, held the requisite general contractor’s license, had marine insurance, and did not meet BP’s qualifications to perform the contracted work.
This and other questions have been raised to the Alabama Ethics Commission, and yet an investigation has not been undertaken.
The debris removal contracts alone have earned Pittman’s company millions of dollars while in office. This is just one example of Pittman’s business dealing within his Senate District.