Adams County Commissioner Alice Nichol will not face any criminal charges following an extensive investigation that scrutinized her alleged involvement in the multiyear Quality Paving and Quality Resurfacing scandal.
Jefferson County District Attorney Scott Storey, the special prosecutor assigned to the case, officially ended his 21-month investigation on Monday.
“I’ve been waiting for over two years to find out what I had known this whole time: I did not do anything criminally,” Nichol said on Monday. “I am finally relieved because I was hoping that I would not go out of office with this cloud over my head and over my family, but I always felt that the whole Quality Paving case kept me hostage,”
Allegations leveled against Alice Nichol and her husband Ron primarily stem from work done on the couple’s residence in July and August 2005 by Quality Paving and Quality Resurfacing.
Those allegations claimed the work was either charged below market value, or charged and returned to the Nichols several years later, but both rested on the premise that the cost reduction contributed to her approval of public works contracts to the paving company.
Adams County District Attorney Quick said he turned over the case to the Jefferson County District Attorney’s Office in April 2011 amid potential conflict of interest concerns, since both the Adams County Sheriff’s Office and District Attorney’s Office budgets must be approved by the county commissioners.
“When we appoint a special prosecutor, you turn the decisions over to them, so I accept and am bound by their decisions,” Quick said.
Storey said in a letter to Quick that his office was unable to prove Nichol’s involvement beyond a reasonable doubt. This inability to prove criminal misconduct was hampered by “numerous problems with the procedures and paperwork or lack of paperwork” in the public works department, Storey said.
In some cases, he said agreements were either never put into writing, never documented or were too ambiguous and did not provide specific project details, such as cost estimates and authorizing officials.
Storey was critical in his assessment of Adams County and its public works department that officials did not follow numerous county policies and procedures, such as approving contacts and change order without fully understanding the terms and conditions and failing to disclose relationships with businesses that work with the county and require commissioner approval.
“It is clear that the business practices of the county and its commissioners, including Alice Nichol who was a target in this investigation, fell well below what most citizens would expect from individuals practicing good government,” Storey said.
Adams County officials have made several attempts to address reform, including creating a centralized purchasing process, hiring an outsourced internal auditor, launching its Transparency Portal and hiring an independent ethics officer.
Nichol said she is pleased with the reform efforts taken by the county, but noted that a lot of the damage has already been done. In March, Nichol lost her bid for re-election as a Democratic candidate in the primary election.
“The cloud cost me re-election and it has certainly been a tremendous burden living under that cloud for my family as well,” Nichol said. “A judgment call with no factual information was made on me and it was all based on perception. I’ve always felt that I’ve been made the political scapegoat for the ills of Adams County that I always wanted to resolve.”