One-Hour Special Examines Haslam Controversies

One-Hour Special Examines Haslam Controversies

CREATED Dec 28, 2013

For months, the Haslam administration has faced questions over deals it struck with big business, along with the governor's close ties to a high-powered Capitol Hill lobbyist.

Those questions were the focus of a primetime special -- "NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Questions of Influence" -- that aired Friday, Dec. 27, at 7 p.m.

"The reality is when you change something big in state government, it brings up questions," Haslam has told reporters.

The one-hour special highlighted investigations over the past year by NewsChannel 5 chief investigative reporter Phil Williams and investigative reporter Ben Hall.  It was hosted by anchors Rhori Johnston and Jessica Ralston.

Williams first exposed tens of millions of dollars in questionable contracts, including two multimillion-dollar contracts where the Haslam administration outsourced much of the state's real estate operations to the Chicago-based corporation Jones Lang Lasalle (JLL).

A scathing state audit recently concluded that JLL "cannot offer unbiased, impartial advice in the state's best interests."

As a result, the State Building Commission put the brakes on plans by the Haslam administration to expand that contract even more. A legislative committee also plans to hold hearings during the coming session on how the Department of General Services spent taxpayers' money.

Hall's investigation first revealed how the governor had placed powerful Capitol Hill lobbyist Tom Ingram on his personal payroll, putting Ingram in the position of advising the governor at the same time that he was lobbying the administration for special interests.

Those revelations led to calls for Haslam to disclose the details of his business relationship with the lobbyist, including specifics on how much he paid Ingram.

In both cases, advocates are calling for ethical reforms.

The documentary was also the work of photojournalists Bryan Staples and Iain Montgomery, as well as producer Kevin Wisniewski.

It will re-air on NewsChannel 5+ at 8 p.m. on New Year's Eve and at 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on New Year's Day.

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