COLUMBIA, S.C. – The State Grand Jury indictments against three former SCDOT employees give details about what they, and a fourth man who didn’t work at the SCDOT, allegedly did, including bribery, kickbacks, and stealing state property.
All three former SCDOT employees worked in the same shop in Columbia, the District 1 “Signal Shop.”
Charles Shirley was the Field Operations Manager for the shop. The indictments allege that he conspired with a neighbor who didn’t work at SCDOT, Allen Ray, to set up a company to do business with the SCDOT. Shirley allegedly used his position to steer business to the company, and then siphoned off money. The indictments say he took approximately $360,000.
Curtis Singleton was the supervisor of the shop. The indictments say he set up a “pay to play” scheme, getting money and benefits for himself from contractors and even allegedly stealing SCDOT property. He allegedly demanded that a contractor sell him a truck for $10,000 less than market value, which the contractor did in order to keep Singleton assigning him work and approving his work.
The indictments say that in October 2013, Singleton got $2,000 for the use of SCDOT traffic signal steel poles. The DOT had a policy of loaning materials and supplies to contractors so they could finish jobs faster and then reimburse the DOT once they received the materials the contractors had ordered. A contractor asked Singleton for four traffic signal steel poles to finish a job, but the indictment says Singleton demanded and received $2,000 in order to loan him the SCDOT poles.
The indictments also allege that he took bribes in exchange for giving contractors work on specific intersections. For example, in September 2011, the indictments say he asked a contractor if he wanted a job to build an intersection on Fish Hatchery Road at S-103 in Lexington County. Singleton told the contractor “if you scratch my back I’ll scratch yours,” according to the indictments. The contractor then allegedly paid a bribe of approximately $1,200 to Singleton.
There were similar bribes for work on other intersections, the indictments say.
Joe Butler was an inspector at the signal shop. The indictments say that in May 2013, he stole materials and supplies from the SCDOT and sold them to contractors for a total of almost $14,500. In August or September 2014, Butler allegedly sold a contractor an SCDOT traffic signal cabinet for $7,000 in cash. Those cabinets can be worth about $12,000. The indictments allege he did the same thing with another SCDOT traffic signal cabinet in November 2014 for another $7,000.
Long before these indictments came out, Sen. Nikki Setzler, D-West Columbia, put a provision in the state budget to hire an outside company, with no ties to the DOT, to study the agency. He says he was surprised by the indictments, but wanted the outside study before that because of the attention on state roads, along with the additional money the SCDOT will be getting to fix them.
“It’s time to take a look under the hood, see what needs to be changed in the department to make it more efficient, make it more accountable, and restore the trust of the people of South Carolina,” he says.
Gov. Nikki Haley’s press secretary Chaney Adams gave us a written statement Friday, saying, “This is exactly why we said real reform – not what was passed this year – is so important: not only would it finally allow the agency to focus on road improvements that are most needed, it would allow for a clean sweep of all of the operations, provide true accountability, and help to eliminate corruption.”