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Alabama Ethics Commission: ALDOT employees can do private business with state contractors

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Alabama Ethics Commission: ALDOT employees can do private business with state contractors

Dec 08, 2023 | 12:00 pm ET
By Ralph Chapoco
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Alabama Ethics Commission: ALDOT employees can do private business with state contractors
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A traffic signal. (Askolds Berovskis / EyeEm/ Getty Images)

The Alabama Ethics Commission said Thursday that the state’s ethics law does not prohibit Alabama Department of Transportation employees having business relationships with companies that contract with ALDOT for a private enterprise they want to establish.

“It seems like they are operating within the confines of the rules,” said Commissioner Edward Cromwell.

The commission said ALDOT employees must operate their business outside of the hours they are employed by the DOT and cannot use their positions as state employees or equipment owned by the state for their personal gain or for their private business.

ALDOT employees cannot use their position as civil engineers for ALDOT for personal gain, nor can they use equipment or resources available to them as ALDOT employees for their private benefit.

The advisory opinion stems from an inquiry submitted by Jeremy Borden, a signal systems engineer with ALDOT who, along with Benjamin Nichols, a civil engineer also with ALDOT, owns a company. The engineers completed an initial design and provisionally patented a wireless traffic signal system that they want to license, sell their rights to the invention altogether, or manufacture the product themselves.

Their business is a standalone enterprise, operating the business with their own money and without any affiliation, connection, or assistance with ALDOT, nor have they leveraged their positions as state employees to benefit their company, according to staff who briefed the Commission.

Commissioners gave their blessing partly because of the unique circumstances surrounding the case. Both Borden and Nichols work on intelligent transport system and traffic signal systems, and they request purchase orders from companies that entered into an agreement with the state that were outside of their control.

All purchase orders are processed through the Alabama Department of Finance and ALDOT administrators in the central office. Neither can direct payments or approve final payment to any company.