Friday, January 7, 2011

Ohio DOT bought Expensive Salt

Ohio has overpaid by as much as $59 million for road salt over the past decade because two companies colluded to drive up prices and misrepresented out-of-state salt as being from Ohio, an investigative report concluded yesterday.

"Although we failed to find evidence that the two companies communicated on salt bids, we did find evidence that Cargill's and Morton's practices have created a duopoly in Ohio's salt market," the report said.

Morton Salt said in a statement that the report's conclusions "are not supported by the facts" and that the company conducts business with integrity and within the law.

"In Ohio, and everywhere else, we compete independently and fairly under the bidding procedures set out by the relevant procurement officials," it said.

Cargill called the conclusions disappointing and pointed to the lack of a finding that the companies communicated with each other.

"Cargill never did or would talk with its competitors about bids," Cargill spokesman Mark Klein said.

First for the favors. Service directors in Bedford Heights, Akron, and Twinsburg, along with ODOT assistant maintenance administrator Diana Clonch, got $4,700 worth of Brown’s tickets, meals, and greens fees. Those were supplied by Cargill account manager Tony DiPietro, formerly an ODOT assistant deputy director in Garfield Heights. A Granger Trucking VP, Frank Bianchi, also spent thousands entertaining a variety of public officials throughout northeast Ohio saying it was on Cargill’s behalf. Cargill says it wasn’t.