Outsourcing opponents deliver letter to governor

About 15 state university employees and United Campus Workers union members delivered a letter to Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing team Tuesday expressing concerns about the process and asking officials to accept public comment on the plan to privatize the operation and maintenance of state-owned property, according to Richard Locker.

About two-thirds of the group was blocked at the security checkpoint in the Tennessee Tower state office building but five representatives were allowed to deliver the letter to the 16th floor offices of state officials and consultants in charge of the controversial outsourcing initiative.

Michelle Martin, the project’s communications manager, spoke with the workers and minutes later, project director Terry Cowles returned to his office from a meeting and also responded to the workers’ questions and comments.

The surprise visit was organized by UCW, a division of the Communications Workers of America, and billed as a protest to demand transparency in the outsourcing project with employees and the public. Participants were civil with each other, although Mike Ledyard, a consultant on the outsourcing team, interrupted to ask Martin, “Are you aware that they are recording you?” after he spotted a worker recording the meeting with a cellphone.

“Yes. That’s fine that they’re recording,” she said.

Scott Martindale, a facilities services employee at Middle Tennessee State University, said the project’s state website has little contact information and no mechanism for public comments, and that telephone calls and messages with have gone unanswered. The website has short biographies of the project’s officers but the only contact information listed is Martin’s.

Cowles said he would consider add some form of public comment mechanism.

“We’ll take that under advisement but I think that’s a reasonable request,” he said.