This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2010, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
Utah's transportation chief feels personally wounded by Democrat Peter Corroon's insinuation that Gov. Gary Herbert may have helped a major campaign contributor win a $1.1 billion bid to widen Interstate 15 and he confronted the Salt Lake County mayor in a tense 30-minute phone call Tuesday night.
Neither man gave any ground.
"His allegation that the governor tipped the scales means one thing and one thing only, that the governor instructed me to tip the scales," John Njord said Wednesday. "He said I violated the law."
Corroon said he never questioned Njord's integrity or even Herbert's.
"What I'm questioning is the judgment and leadership of Gary Herbert in using his Governor's Office as a campaign office," he said.
The underdog Corroon campaign has gone after Herbert with ads linking state contractors to his donors, saying the episodes show the need for campaign finance reform.
Herbert's campaign has taken the claims as personal attacks that disparage the reputations of prominent civil servants and private business owners.
Herbert and Njord say they have since turned over every document and disclosed every nuance of the I-15 bid, even those that have raised eyebrows.
Njord said he has also tried to get in touch with Corroon to walk him through the bid process in an attempt to prove to the mayor that everything is on the up and up.
Corroon called Njord back at 9 p.m. on Tuesday, declining a request to meet Njord at UDOT's office right then or Wednesday morning.
Njord said he told Corroon: "You perpetuated a lie, and you never tried to find the truth. You never called me, you never read the documents that we put on our website."
Corroon said that Njord doesn't have to convince him, but rather the people of Utah. And while he understands Njord's anger, he thinks it is misplaced.
"He shouldn't be blaming me. He should be blaming his boss, Gary Herbert, for the issues he now faces, outside of whatever contracting issues there might be," Corroon said.
Njord is adamant that he did not influence the bid outcome and would quit if ever pressed to do so, something Corroon should know since they have had similar training.
"What is really frustrating to me is he has a civil engineering background just like I do. He knows how sacred the bid process is to civil engineers," Njord said. "He knows what he alleged and yet he was wiling to tell that lie and continues to tell that lie.
"To have these sort of allegations made against me personally, the governor and everyone associated with this project is the most disheartening thing I ever experienced in my life."
Corroon said he sympathized with the pressure Njord is under.
"But the bottom line is there is a lot of questions that have been raised," he said. "I would gladly provide him with a list of questions that need to be answered."