ARAPAHOE COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4) – A CBS4 investigation has found the son of a powerful government official in Arapahoe County has received $563,314.77 in “no-bid” contracts since 2009 in what one government watchdog calls “nepotism.”
Norman Sheldon is the president of the Parker-Jordan Metropolitan District, an entity that collects property taxes from 6,340 residents in southern Arapahoe County. The PJMD was created in 1985 with the intent of providing streets, parks and recreation facilities along with storm, flood and drainage facilities for residents spread across 1,080 acres.
Administrators say Norman Sheldon has been on the PJMD board ever since. He is currently president.
When the district was looking at potential land acquisition in 2009, it hired Sheldon’s son Dan, at a rate of $120 per hour to perform due diligence. A district administrator said Dan Sheldon “was brought to the district’s attention by the board president, Norman Sheldon.”
Eventually, the board decided it needed a construction manager for pending projects, and again, it chose Dan Sheldon without any competitive bid process. No one else was considered for the position, which has been extremely lucrative, paying Dan Sheldon 5 percent of all construction costs.
Once again, an administrator for the district says Dan Sheldon “was brought to the district’s attention by the board president, Norman Sheldon.”
In the ensuing four years, the Parker Jordan Metropolitan District has paid Dan Sheldon $563,314.77 in fees and commissions. The contracts were signed by his father, Norman Sheldon, who refused to discuss the issue with CBS4. Dan Sheldon also refused to discuss his employment by his father’s district.
In an email to CBS4, the district manager, Bob Blodgett, wrote, “As a professional service, construction management is not required to go out for bid.”
Blodgett said Dan Sheldon was hired in 2009 “because of (his) company’s expertise in commercial real estate due diligence.” Blodgett said Norman Sheldon abstained from the vote that awarded his son hundreds of thousands of dollars in fees and commissions.
Luis Toro, from the watchdog group Colorado Ethics Watch, said what CBS4 found was “very obviously an ethical lapse and I think most people would call it nepotism. There’s a public trust here and the public trust is being put below helping out a member of the family.”
Toro’s group advocates for transparency, accountability and honesty in government.
“Really, there needs to be an opportunity for other people in the community with similar businesses to compete,” Toro said. “This is a good government contract and other businesses might have wanted it but it went to a family member and that doesn’t pass the smell test.”