Business records maintained by the Alabama Secretary of State’s office reveal that between 1998 and 2013, at least 46 business entities and property owners associations were registered by Baldwin County Commissioner Tucker Dorsey, Dorsey’s employer Clarence E. Burke Jr. and Summit Industries owner Jacob L. Cunningham to 12940 Underwood Road in Summerdale, Summit Industries’ address.
Of the 46 business entities and property owners associations Lagniappe found registered to 12940 Underwood Road, at least four have received payments from the County Commission.
In addition to Summit Industries and Baldwin County Sewer Service, which have received $539,000 and $140,000, respectively, from the county since 2010, Trojan Landscape was also formed at 12940 Underwood Road and was paid $43,899 by the county in 2012 for work at the Lillian Boat Launch. Baldwin County probate records show Trojan Landscape was formed in 2002 by R.D. Simpkins Jr. While Trojan Landscape was incorporated at 12940 Underwood Road, the business now lists 14817 Underwood Road as its address.
Another company formed by Cunningham at 12940 Underwood Road, Southern Excavating LLC, was the low bidder for an August 2015 contract for repairs at Sibley Street and Stedman’s Landing and has received more than $228,000 from the county for work since 2015. The company recently changed its name to Streamline Environmental.
So far over the past six years those companies have been paid more than $950,000 by Baldwin County. None are owned or were incorporated by Dorsey.
During a phone call July 28, Dorsey said there were roughly 50 property owners associations formed at 12940 Underwood Road in his and Burke’s names when Summit Construction’s office was located there before Cunningham purchased its assets. A real estate developer with Magnolia River Management, Dorsey said when subdivisions are created county regulations require developers to establish property owners associations.
Dorsey said the property owners associations and business entities share Summit Industries LLC’s address because they were created at that address. Dorsey said he has halted much of his development work because it would be improper to build subdivisions in the county while working as a commissioner.
In a subsequent phone interview Aug. 1, Dorsey further explained the numerous property owners associations, which he said were formed as nonprofit entities. During a subdivision’s development, Dorsey said developers create property owners associations, along with subdivision rules and regulations, and file necessary paperwork with the county in the subdivision’s name.
He explained that control of the property owners associations is turned over to members at the completion of a subdivision’s development. According to Dorsey, most of the property owners associations listing 12940 Underwood Road as an address have subsequently been turned over to their members.
Records indicate Dorsey was the incorporator for the Overton Place Property Owners Association in 2006 using 12940 Underwood Road as the address. In a 2016 annual report the association still lists the address for its registered agent, Charles E. Burke Jr., at the Underwood address.
Dorsey said he could not be certain all of the property owners associations have been completely turned over to their members, but maintained he does not run or maintain any property owners associations, nor does he collect dues or receive any payments from them.
As nonprofit organizations, homeowners associations are required by the IRS to file income tax forms each year. However, Lagniappe found just 17 Alabama property owners associations in Guidestar’s online nonprofit database. Only one association with the 12940 Underwood Road address, the Autumn Woods Property Owners Association, was found in the database and its tax records were not available.
John Bennett, deputy chief of staff in the Alabama Secretary of State’s office, said business entities should file updated information for officers and addresses when they make changes, but that doesn’t always happen. He also said it is not uncommon for multiple businesses to be formed or registered at one location. According to Bennett, constituents must first file paperwork at the county probate office and pay the appropriate fees to both the probate office and to the secretary of state’s office to incorporate a business.
“We digitize the records here, so our filings aren’t always complete because we are just a repository for the information,” Bennett said. “We are a recordkeeping repository with a small amount of information sometimes. I think it is fairly common to see multiple entities at the same address.”
Lagniappe reported on July 28 that Summit Industries has received more than $539,000 from the county for work since 2012. Both Dorsey and Summit Industries LLC owner Jacob L. Cunningham said the commissioner is not connected to the company. Dorsey’s employer, Burke, sold Summit Construction Co.’s assets to Cunningham in 2000, while Burke was removed from the company’s listing in 2008, according to state records.
Reached by email, Cunningham said Dorsey does not own and is not employed by Summit Industries LLC. He said all work Summit Industries has performed for the county was competitively bid and declined to respond to further inquiries.
On Aug. 1, Dorsey explained Summit Construction Co. was formed in the 1980s to develop subdivisions; after a few years, Burke founded Baldwin County Sewer Service (BCSS) and eventually decided to focus his attention there. Cunningham purchased all the assets of the company, including the building at 12940 Underwood Road, but did not buy the name Summit Construction Co. because he did not want to assume the company’s liabilities.
After the sale, Burke constructed a new building at 14747 Underwood Road to house BCSS, although it still has the 12940 Underwood address listed in the Secretary of State’s records. Dorsey said Burke kept the Summit Construction Co. name and is still president, but the company is not connected to Summit Industries. Magnolia River Management is under the Summit Construction Co. umbrella and shares the 14747 Underwood Road address. Burke signed an agreement in 2005 giving Dorsey power of attorney for him at Summit Construction Inc.
“The different LLCs and entities can get confusing,” Dorsey said. “But the bottom line is that I don’t work for Summit Industries. I don’t own any part of Summit Industries and I have never gotten a single dollar from Summit Industries.”
Lagniappe found campaign finance reports from May 2014 showing a pair of donations — for $1,500 and $2,500 — from Summit Industries LLC to Dorsey’s campaign for County Commission that year. Dorsey’s 2014 annual contribution report showed he received $61,138.70 in cash contributions. He acknowledged the contributions from Summit Industries LLC but said he received donations from many private citizens and businesses and Summit’s donations were just a small part of his support.
“I am very concerned about doing my job as a commissioner with character and integrity,” Dorsey said July 28. “I don’t take fishing trips or go hunting with donors. I don’t take anything from them and I don’t do anything with them that would put the county in a bad light.”
The county’s online check register does not show any payments or contracts with Magnolia River Management in at least the last 10 years. The records do show the county has paid BCSS more than $140,000 for work since 2010.
Dorsey said he has not been involved in any discussions or votes related to Baldwin County Sewer since taking office because of a 2010 Ethics Commission advisory opinion. In October 2010, the Alabama Ethics Commission ruled Dorsey should not vote on or discuss matters related to BCSS because Burke, the BCSS owner, is his employer at Magnolia River Management.
Official approved minutes from the commission’s Aug. 19, 2014, meeting show Dorsey left the commission chambers and did not participate in a discussion about an approved county contract with BCSS. Additionally, Dorsey said he leaves the commission chambers or meeting room when BCSS is discussed.