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Democratic Chairman Calls For State Contract Reform

Democratic Chairman Calls For State Contract Reform

By Phil Williams. CREATED Nov 15, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- It's time for new ethics rules to keep your tax dollars from being abused.

That's the message from the head of the Tennessee Democratic Party following NewsChannel 5's exclusive investigation of some questionable state contracts.

Roy Herron's plea follows a scathing state audit, issued this week, that suggested a big corporation out of Chicago cannot give impartial advice on how to spend your money because of its own profit motives.

"This Chicago company has gotten in a honey jar, and the honey so rich and so deep and so much of it, they are having to take both paws to shovel it into their mouths," said Herron, the state party's chairman.

He was referring to the Haslam administration's deal with Jones Lang Lasalle. 

It was the winning bidder last year for a million-dollar contract to study the state's real estate needs. Since then, it's received millions more through a series of no-bid contract amendments where it got paid to implement its own recommendations.

This week, a state audit of the Department of General Services called that a potential conflict of interest.

It suggested that lawmakers might want to consider new rules -- patterned after ones adopted by the federal government -- to keep consultants giving the state advice that will mean more money going into the consultants' own pockets.

"Yeah, their advice is pay them more money, pay them a lot more money, pay them hundreds of millions of dollars and that's what we're in the midst of doing. It's outrageous, it's wrong, it ought to be stopped," Herron said.

And the Democratic Party chairman insisted that this is not a partisan issue.

He noted that the office that issued the state audit is headed by a Republican.

NewsChannel 5 Investigates revealed this week that the Haslam administration is now considering expanding that contract again.

As for JLL, it has insisted that state officials have the final say on how to spend your money.

Back to NC5 Investigates: Questions of Influence
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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.