A Gainesville construction firm is pushing back after getting roped into a political fight out of Habersham County between two Republican primary opponents for the state House.
“This is nasty,” said Brian Daniel, president of Carroll Daniel Construction Co. “It’s uncalled for and inappropriate, if you ask me. It’s absolutely baseless.”
Daniel is referring to public accusations lobbed this week by Rep. Dan Gasaway, R-Homer, against his primary opponent, Chris Erwin, and Habersham County School System Superintendent Matthew Cooper.
Erwin, the former school superintendent of Banks County, has worked as director of business development for Carroll Daniel since 2015.
Gasaway said Erwin and Cooper unethically orchestrated a contract between the school district and Carroll Daniel to perform work at Woodville and Hazel Grove elementary schools. The contract was awarded last summer.
“I have asked the attorney general of Georgia to assist me in opening an investigation into the Habersham County Board of Education,” Gasaway said in a statement. “The primary focus currently is to investigate how much improper influence employees of Carroll Daniel Construction had in procuring construction work.”
The attorney general’s office has not made a public statement on the issue or responded to a request for comment from The Times.
“I do appreciate the Georgia Professional Standards Commission’s recent effort to look into the ethical questions I have raised,” Gasaway said in a statement to The Times. “I look forward to their findings.”
Gasaway serves District 28, which includes Banks, Stephens and portions of Habersham County in Northeast Georgia.
Erwin said the accusations are politically motivated and not based in fact.
“Honestly, the timing and motivation were not lost on us,” he told The Times on Wednesday. “It’s rather obvious what he’s doing.”
Erwin added that he believes Gasaway is growing desperate and willing to do anything to keep his job in the General Assembly.
Gasaway said the relationship between Erwin and Cooper has given way to “blatant ethical violations.”
Cooper, in a lengthy statement to The Times, denied Gasaway’s claims.
“As superintendent, I state with certainty that the Habersham County School System and the Habersham County Board of Education adhered to legal and ethical practices in selecting Carroll Daniel Construction for the renovation projects at Hazel Grove and Woodville elementary schools,” he said.
Cooper also rejected Gasaway’s claim that a “request for proposals” was not properly advertised. The Times has received a copy of the advertisement. The document is available to download here or can be viewed below.
“The Habersham County School System advertised a request for proposal using six different means, including the school system website and the local newspaper,” Cooper said. “Interested companies were given a fair opportunity to respond ... and submit a proposal for the renovation projects.”
Three firms submitted proposals: Charles Black Construction, Parrish Construction and Carroll Daniel.
Cooper said a nine-member committee, on which he did not serve, was formed to evaluate the submitted proposals and Carroll Daniel was selected to perform the work for no more than $4.25 million. The committee included three elementary school principals and six other school system officials.
Cooper also said Carroll Daniel submitted a bid in 2015 for renovations to the Habersham Central High School stadium and track course. Though Erwin was working for the construction company at the time, Carroll Daniel was not selected for that project.
“The allegation that Chris Erwin influenced the selection of a construction company is false and without any merit,” Cooper said.