Does Tennessee Gov. Bill Haslam have a financial stake in a massive new contract to outsource the management of state buildings?
That’s the question uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.
The Haslam administration insisted that the contract is about saving taxpayer money, not about making the governor richer.
But our investigation discovered the governor’s office was directly involved in the decision to give hundreds of millions of dollars of your money to a corporation he knew well.
Recently, the state signed a $330 million, five-year contract with a multinational corporation, Jones Lang Lasalle, to manage all of the state’s buildings. It’s a company that, our investigation discovered, candidate Bill Haslam listed among his major investments.
“The fact that he was invested in this company that got this contract is disturbing if he’s still invested in it,” said House Democratic Caucus Chair Mike Turner of Nashville.
Turner said that the public has a right to know whether the governor stands to benefit from the outsourcing effort being pushed by his General Services commissioner, Steve Cates.
The governor’s office said that they don’t know if JLL is still among the investments that Haslam put into a blind trust.
“Even the fact that he was invested at one time, there was a relationship there,” Turner added.
The Haslam administration insisted the contract was awarded through an above-board, competitive process with no political influence.
Still, our investigation discovered that the selection committee was composed of procurement officer Mike Perry and two members of Haslam’s own team: chief of staff and former campaign manager Mark Cate and special assistant to the governor Larry Martin.
“Not a lot of independent analysis goes into something when you’ve got two men working in the governor’s office and the other person’s job depends upon going along with what they tell him,” Turner said.
“It makes it look political?” NewsChannel 5 Investigates asked.
“Oh, it’s very political, totally political.”
General Services officials said Mark Cate was on the selection committee because of his real estate background, Larry Martin because of his banking and public policy background.
But our investigation discovered that JLL got the big contract after the Haslam administration paid the firm a million dollars as a consultant to conduct a four-month study of state buildings.