Vendor leased luxury car for SC State president, denied it to tr - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina

Vendor leased luxury car for SC State president, denied it to trustees

ORANGEBURG, SC (WIS) -

One South Carolina State University vendor leased a luxury vehicle for the university's former president, denied doing so to a university trustee member and sent the invoices to the school.

In a committee meeting Nov. 14, 2013, DTZ employee Ken Davis was asked if he leased or purchased a vehicle for the university. Davis said he did not. He made that claim in front of former President Thomas Elzey, who was the driver for the Chrysler 300, according to the committee meeting minutes.

However, DTZ started leasing a Chrysler 300 in mid-October 2013, according to documents obtained by a Freedom of Information Act request. That lease continued with Enterprise car rental at least through December 2013. One car lease renewal occurred on the same day as the committee meeting Davis attended.

The news about Elzey's Chrysler 300 came to light in a whistle-blower lawsuit filed last year and is now in federal court. Two of the three whistle-blowers, Derrick Green and Linda Elmore, no longer work with the university's fleet management division after they were terminated Sept. 5. The third whistle-blower Evelyn Anderson is currently the director of Internal Audit at SCSU. They claim in the lawsuit that Elzey requested the luxury car and a golf cart soon after he started at the school in June 2013. When they did not produce the vehicle, one employee was demoted and the others claim harassment by Elzey.

“The employees on the front-end of all this who were being told to make this happen were constantly pushing back to say, ‘There's no way under state rules that we can make this happen or under our current budget statement we can make this happen,'” said Reginald Lloyd, whistle-blowers' attorney.

We found that the Chrysler 300 is not on a list of approved vehicles currently available through state contract.

Elzey then assigned DTZ/Unicco to provide fleet management services in addition to the facility maintenance contract already in place with the vendor. The whistle-blowers claim that on the first day DTZ/Unicco took over, Davis and DTZ employee Ryan Arnold showed up at the school with a Chrysler 300 for Elzey.

However, that vehicle cost about $1,500 a month and was paid for by Davis' corporate account. DTZ sent invoices to SCSU for the lease, according to receipts we obtained.

Lloyd said that Elzey worked for weeks to get this vehicle and the full length of deals he possibly worked are still unknown.

“He found a way to get that car anyway,” Lloyd said. “There's an issue of whether or not there had been some promise to DTZ of additional work under an expanded contract. There's the possibility that the people who are supposed to be there monitoring those contracts aren't doing so on the best interest of taxpayers, but they're doing so on a nod to get those sorts of goodies.”

DTZ's invoices claimed the rental was needed while Elzey's 2008 Ford Expedition was in the shop after a minor accident in Oct. 4, 2013 – prior to Green's alleged demotion and Davis and Arnold giving Elzey the keys to a leased Chrysler 300. However, the Expedition was not taken to the shop until December 2013, and according to a body shop estimate, the vehicle would be repaired in seven days.

“There were other vehicles available to him, made exclusively available to him through fleet management,” Lloyd said, referring to a Chevrolet Impala that was set aside for Elzey as mentioned in the whistle-blower lawsuit.

DTZ/Unicco is now suing the school for $4.2 million for unpaid bills and that total is growing, according to the lawsuit filed in February. Davis is still working for the company at the university as the facilities director. In response to WIS' request concerning his statement at the committee meeting in November 2013, Davis said DTZ received an inquiry from the state Office of Inspector General on Feb. 25, 2014, and "worked closely and openly" to answer questions related to the OIG investigation. 

The OIG's investigation into the whistle-blowers' claims in ongoing, and no one at the office can comment.

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