Another questioned state contract: ‘We’ve broken several laws’

Phil Williams has a new report questioning the Haslam administration’s handling of state government contracts, this one on cancellation of a contract held by Sanders Moving Company of Nashville. Sanders has filed a legal claim against the state and contends the contract was wrongfully canceled so the state’s business would go instead to Flood Brothers Moving of Atlanta.

“This is not a company that is afraid of competition,” said Harold Donnelly, attorney for Sanders Moving. “They are fierce competitors. They just want everybody to be following the same rules.”

In emails that Sanders’ lawyer filed with the state’s claims division, Kurt Herron — a career employee in the Tennessee Department of General Services — said bluntly: “We’ve already broken several laws.”

He specifically blamed Atlanta native Leah Shrock, an employee of Jones Lang Lasalle. That’s the big corporation that the Haslam administration put in charge of the state’s real estate.

“I know we redid [the statewide contract] four months early so Leah could get Flood Brothers on there,” Herron wrote.

Donnelly said the emails speak for themselves.

“The original contract was broken, according to these emails, in order that Flood Brothers be brought on to the contract,” he added. “You shouldn’t breach the contract and you shouldn’t break the rules and regulations just so one bidder could be favored.”

JLL has been supervising a multimillion-dollar redesign of state offices that has required the relocation of whole departments.

In one email, the career state employee wrote, “JLL only wanted to use the bigger companies and therefore made the requirements so strenuous that the smaller companies couldn’t compete.”

This summer, Haslam administration officials told lawmakers that the contract was redone partially so that durable shipping crates like the ones shown in a Flood Brothers video could be used for the moves.

“This is unprecedented, unprecedented moves,” the governor’s chief of staff, Mark Cate, told the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee. “So to do that, we had to get the right, we needed the movers that could do this in a way that was the most efficient.”

Still, the emails indicate that diversity experts within the Department of General Services had “has declared the mandatory use of crates to be discrimination” against smaller moving companies that might want to compete for the work.

In addition, the claim filed by Sanders Moving alleged that state officials also allowed Flood Brothers to illegally change the prices on its bids to undercut its competitors.

In a statement, JLL admitted that it has worked with Flood Brothers in the past, but insisted that any suggestion that it steered state business to anyone is “entirely false.”

Here is the company’s statement:

“Jones Lang LaSalle’s role in the procurement process for movers was limited to supporting the State’s personnel, just as it does on other procurements. All of JLL’s actions were proper and in conformity with its contract and Tennessee law.

“JLL did not share any information, including information about the Tennessee procurement process, with anyone from Flood Brothers prior to their being selected for award by the State. Any allegation otherwise is false.

“While JLL has previously interacted with Flood Brothers in the performance of moving services, as it has with many moving companies, the firm had no role in recruiting Flood Brothers to this project or advocating on its behalf. Any allegation otherwise is, again, entirely false.”

One of the owners of Flood Brothers also denied that there had been any illegal activity, but he declined further comment.