TEGA CAY, S.C. — A Tega Cay city leader’s husband got a five-figure contract on a city construction project involving Tega Cay’s new police station.
A concerned Tega Cay citizen reached out to the Defenders’ Michelle Boudin about the payment, and WCNC Charlotte learned even the mayor had concerns.
Tega Cay’s much-needed, brand new $4 million police department was the talk of the town.
“It’s a huge project -- it’s the first police station we’ve ever built,” said Alicia Dasch, a Tega Cay Council Member.
But she and Mayor David O’Neal both said they have some concerns about the process.
“If it doesn’t look right or it doesn’t smell right let's stop and take a breath,” Dasch said.
Their big concern? The husband of the city’s assistant manager was paid almost $80,000 to wire the security controls at the new police station.
WCNC Charlotte asked, “Does this feel right to you?”
“Honestly no – it doesn’t feel right for me," Dasch said. "It feels like it’s an ethics violation.”
Jacob Poulsen owns Infinite Audio video. His wife Katie Poulsen is Tega Cay’s assistant city manager. The city wouldn’t let WCNC Charlotte speak with her, but the city manager Charlie Funderburk said he doesn’t think there’s anything wrong with the contract.
WCNC Charlotte asked Funderburk if he was concerned about how the salary could look to the public.
“We definitely understand how that perception looks and that’s why we have started having conversations around what our procurement ordinance currently is," he said.
The city manager said the contractor on the project hired Poulsen’s company – but the city manager admits, he had to sign off on hiring Poulsen’s company and thought it was a good idea because they felt like they were getting a good deal. But they never put the project up for bid.
"We decided it was good to save money on the project," Funderburk said.
The decision was based solely on saving money, he said. When WCNC Charlotte asked if they tried to find another company that would match the deal, he said they had not.
"No, because he has done a lot of our security access over the years," Funderburk said.
WCNC Charlotte's Defenders team did some digging and found they paid Poulsen’s company another $16,000 in 2018. Still, the city manager doesn’t think his second in command is benefitting from any of it.
“You should be questioning, is this ok," Dash said. "You have a leader within this or who will be, because of their marriage, benefitting from this contract."
The city’s official ethics policy says, “No elected official, or city employee or their families can accept any rebate, money, loans or significant gifts from any person or organization doing business with the city.”
Tega Cay’s city attorney says the contract does not violate the ethics policy.
WCNC Charlotte asked the city manager if they would continue to hire Poulsen’s company. He said the City Council directed him not to do that anymore.
Dasch told WCNC Charlotte the city manager should have been concerned about this from the beginning,
“If we're able to slip on something so obvious, to me, what else are we slipping on and where does that put us for other situations?" Dasch said. "That’s a serious concern I have.”
WCNC Charlotte reached out to the South Carolina Ethics Commission, and the executive director said it would be “inappropriate to comment on issues we could be involved in.”
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