Currently, I am the assistant to the director of public works for the City of San Marcos. Formerly, I was an employee of J.T. (Tom) Hawthorne's Caterpillar dealership. Although I believe there is nary a transportation contract awarded that in some manner does not benefit the Hawthorne organization, I do not see a conflict of interest in the position he holds as transportation commissioner and his ownership of San Diego County's most recognized equipment dealership.
The crux of the no-conflict argument is that a transportion commissioner does not select which contractor is awarded a contract. Commissions establish priorities. Caltrans and all public agencies award contracts through the competitive bidding process. Hawthorne's benefit comes very indirectly as San Diego's exclusive Caterpillar dealership, which caters to contractors capable of accomplishing the enormous jobs 'let' by the state and other agencies. Virtually all contractors awarded jobs of substance in San Diego County will shop for equipment, parts, service or rentals from the Hawthorne organization because they can expect their equipment needs will be satisfied.
When analyzing how Hawthorne voted on highway projects, one can only see his intimate knowledge and genuine concern for the rational development of the state's transportation network.
MICHAEL D. MERCEREAU
Assistant to the Public Works Director