Two Judges Back TDOT in Disputes With Contractors Tied to Corruption

Two Nashville courts have refused to overturn the Tennessee Department of Transportation’s decisions to suspend two guardrail contractors from bidding on state contracts, according to The Tennessean.
The two contractors had been implicated in corruption investigations. The contractors — Kingston Springs-based Lu Inc. and Knoxville-based Tennessee Guardrail — argued in lawsuits that their suspensions were improper. Davidson County Chancellor Russell T. Perkins and U.S. District Court Judge Kevin H. Sharp have so far refused, preserving TDOT’s wide latitude to suspend contractors as it sees fit to protect the public’s confidence that taxpayer dollars are being spent appropriately.
Lu Inc. owner and President Novice Cole has admitted to giving $30,000 to a TDOT project supervisor who oversaw his work on a 2005 Interstate 65 widening project, but claimed in a Davidson County Chancery Court lawsuit that the state’s decision to suspend him earlier this year violated the terms of a 2006 settlement agreement he reached with the agency.
The settlement agreement ended a previous TDOT suspension of Lu that was based on allegations by a former employee that guardrails it installed were not embedded deep enough and were unsafe.
Lu was suspended again this year after former TDOT employee James Douglas Hagar was indicted in federal court on bribery charges. Hagar has admitted to accepting eight personal checks from Cole totaling $30,000 and was sentenced to six months in prison.
….Tennessee Guardrail Vice President Kevin Eugene Peel and company founder Allen Roy DeFoe are accused of destroying records requested by a federal grand jury in 2006. The grand jury had requested records of “anything of value obtained for or transferred for the direct or indirect benefit of any employee or former employee of” TDOT or other government agencies. The indictment alleges that, after receiving the subpoena, Peel and DeFoe took numerous boxes of documents to a commercial document-shredding business and had them destroyed.
TDOT decided to suspend Tennessee Guardrail because Peel is still an officer with the company and declined the company’s request for an administrative hearing to dispute the charges.
“We believe this suspension violates Tennessee Guardrail’s constitutional rights because its employee was indicted; Tennessee Guardrail was not,” Nashville attorney Courtney Smith argued for Tennessee Guardrail at an Oct. 26 hearing.

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