TRUSTEES ACCUSED OF IMPROPER INVOLVEMENT IN CONTRACTS
Three University of South Carolina trustees have been accused by fellow board members – and state lawmakers – of improperly steering tens of millions of dollars in business to a developer who has done business with their law firm.
And may retain them again in the future …
One of the trustees – William Hubbard – is a former chairman of the USC board. Another – John von Lehe, Jr. – is the board’s current vice chairman. The third trustee is Thad Westbrook, is a political appointee who was embroiled in a major controversy last year when he failed to report $134,000 in campaign contributions sent to S.C. Attorney General Alan Wilson.
All three men are partners at the powerful Nelson Mullins law firm – which represents Holder Properties, Inc., the Atlanta-based company which received the contracts.
Naturally all three of these men were smart enough to avoid personally voting on these contracts, right? Right?
In fact two of them – Hubbard and von Lehe – currently serve on the University’s executive committee, which unilaterally approves small dollar contracts (and recommends the approval of larger dollar projects to the full board).
One of these projects? A $94.5 million student apartment complex approved for Holder Properties by the full USC board on January 16 of this year. Not only did all three Nelson Mullins trustees vote in favor of the deal, Hubbard and von Lehe’s committee actually presented the recommendation to the board asking that it be approved. Hell, von Lehe is listed in the minutes of the USC board meeting as calling for a second to approve the committee’s motion.
In other words, not only did they fail to recuse themselves from voting on the deal – they actively shepherded it through the approval process.
That’s shameless, people …
Neither the student apartment contract – nor a separate $25 million office building deal that also went to Holder Properties – were bid competitively. And our legislative sources tell us this is “just the beginning” of self-serving behavior demonstrated by these three trustees.
Holder Properties CEO John Holder told FITS his company is not represented by Nelson Mullins and that he has “no financial involvement with those guys.”
“There’s no relationship,” Holder told us, although he did say that his company used Nelson Mullins in 2012 on a development project in Columbia.
Holder’s company also developed the Meridian building in downtown Columbia, S.C., where Nelson Mullins offices are located.
“We may use them in the future,” he acknowledged.
Sure looks like Hubbard, von Lehe and Westbrook just put on one heck of an audition to get additional business from Holder …
Shady behavior is nothing new for Hubbard. Three years ago lawmakers were forced to file legislation in response to his unethical self-serving actions as a member of the board.
Amazingly, Hubbard held onto his job …
Hubbard, von Lehe and Westbrook did not return calls seeking comment on this story. Neither did University of South Carolina spokesman, Wes Hickman.