Regent fails to disclose thousands in deals with the state

Though state universities and colleges paid at least $869,000 in 2007 to Allan Vigil, a member of Board of Regents, through his Ford dealership, in his 2007 financial disclosure statement, Vigil reported no payments to his dealership from the state.

He noted on the financial statement that he does sell some cars to universities through sealed bids, the value of which varies from year to year.

Georgia law as a part of the Ethic-in-Government Act requires that public officials, including regents, to report transactions greater than $20,000 between state agencies or departments and businesses that they own.

Non-disclosure is considered an ethical breach carrying up to a $1,000 fine. “The entire point and purpose of the [state] Ethics-in-Government Act is transparency,” said Rick Thompson, executive secretary of the state Ethics Commission, to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It is vital that everything that is supposed to be reported gets reported.”

“I think it’s unfortunate that Regent Vigil failed to disclose the exact amount of income earned, though I can’t speak to whether his mistake was simply a shortcut or something else. These disclose requirements are important for us to keep the activities of public officials in check, and I would certainly hope this example provides a valuable lesson to all of our state officials,” said Nick Wellkamp, undergraduate student body president.

When questioned about the discrepancy, Vigil told the AJC, “Maybe I took a shortcut by just saying payments vary,” but he stressed that all transactions were part of the public record. “I figured everyone could figure it out.”

Vigil is accountable for his disclosure statement, but a formal investigation will only be launched if a complaint is made to the Ethics Commission.

Due to the small size of the department, financial disclosures are typically only audited in instances where complaints have been made.

Vigil sold vehicles to at least eighteen state schools during the 2007 year, including Tech. In 2007, Tech purchased 39 vehicles for a sum of $382,638.67 for the university and GTPD from Alan Vigil Ford through state contracts.

Dealerships contract with the state through a closed bid process, where the bid automatically goes to the lowest offer. Individual universities then purchase all new vehicles off of that contract. Alan Vigil Ford has held the state contract for purchasing Ford vehicles for more than 5 years.

This contract includes many types of pickups and all police vehicles.

“There is only one manufacturer for four-wheel drive police vehicles, the Crown Vic, that Ford has,” said Tom Pearson, director of business services at Tech.

While relevant to the entire university system, Vigil’s lack of disclosure should have minimal direct impact on Tech.

“Of the 21 people on the Presidential Search Committee, eight of them were [on the Board of Regents]. Allan Vigil was not a member of the search committee.… There are 18 members of the Board of Regents, and I don’t think a financial disclosure issue with one of them will affect [Tech’s] presidential search in any significant way,” Wellkamp said.