Tag Archives: contract

N.C. firm deemed winner in bidding for $100M TN school testing contract

Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration intends to award Measurement Inc. of Durham, N.C., with a contract for more than $100 million to develop and produce standardized tests for the state’s public schools, reports The Tennessean.

The state notified five companies Wednesday that Measurement Inc. had the best evaluated proposal of companies that bid to create assessments for English language arts and math. If and when the contract is officially awarded to Measurement Inc., it will produce tests beginning next school year to replace pieces of — or at least alter — the outdated Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program. The new tests would align with the state’s current Common Core standards.

A contract still requires signatures and would need to clear an appeals process. It comes after the Tennessee General Assembly last spring halted a previously planned transition to the Partnership for Assessment of Readiness for College and Careers, or PARCC — a Common Core-aligned computer-based test.

Instead, the state reopened bids for the 2015-16 year for a testing contract that is expected to be in the neighborhood of $107 million over five years. It would replace education giant Pearson Inc., which produces TCAP.

“This is an important step forward for Tennessee,” Tennessee Education Commissioner Kevin Huffman said in a written statement, though he was unavailable for an interview. “The department will support teachers and school and district leaders throughout the state with regional trainings as they transition to the new test.”

“The state’s Central Procurement Office has led a fair and transparent process.”

The other four companies to bid on the contract were CTB/McGraw Hill, Pearson, Questar Assessment and Vantage.

Kelly Smith, a spokeswoman for the procurement office, said Measurement Inc.’s proposal received the highest technical score — used to assess a company’s ability to provide a service — and the lowest proposed cost.

Legislators not told comptroller asked re-bid of JLL contract

An official with the state comptroller’s office suggested in an email that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration should scrap a portion of a state contract with Jones Lang LaSalle and put it back up for competitive bidding, reports WTVF.

Reporter Phil Williams says the email indicates administration officials may not have told state legislators “the whole truth” during a hearing before the Fiscal Review Committee on the Jones Lang LaSalle contract to manage state government buildings.

They were asked point-blank if contract watchdogs from the state Comptroller’s Office had raised any concerns.

“Did the Comptroller’s Office have any comment on the way it was being done as it moved along?” asked state Sen. Douglas Henry Jr., D-Nashville.

Department of General Services lawyer Chloe Shafer responded that the comptroller’s staff had provided “feedback.”

“They asked for information about what we had looked at, just as you did… and we provided them with answers that we believe they found satisfactory,” Shafer told Henry.

But what the General Services lawyer did not tell the committee was that she had received emails from the Comptroller’s Office just two months earlier, urging that a portion of one of those contracts be scrapped.

That portion lets JLL handle lease negotiations for the state and ask for a 4 percent commission from landlords who want to lease the state a building.

“This was negotiated with JLL with no opportunity for anyone else to offer their services,” wrote Melinda Parton, director of the comptroller’s Office of Management Services.

“Don’t agree with continuing to negotiate services without competition,” she concluded.

…(W)hen lawmakers gathered to review that contract, they only heard the administration’s side. That’s because the Comptroller’s Office is now in the middle of the a big audit of the Department of General Services — and they weren’t ready to talk about their findings.

Cate on Jones Lang LaSalle Deal: Minor Miscues, Major Savings

Mark Cate, the governor’s chief of staff, acknowledged to state legislators Tuesday that mistakes were made in handling a multi-million dollar contract for management of state buildings but declared the overall effort a huge success that other states now want to emulate.
Appearing before the Legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, Cate said Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration entered “unchartered territory” in contracting with Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle with inherent “complications and confusion” occurring at times.
One mistake was in not being sufficiently transparent about the move to legislators and the public, he said. Another was not drafting the original, competitively-bid proposed contract to reflect the maximum value to the winning company, he said, instead of listing it just as a $1 million study and later changing the amount upwards as new duties were added.
Cate also said officials have decided to have “a fresh set of eyes” conduct another review on one of JLL’s recommendation – demolishing the Cordell Hull building, which stands next to the state Capitol and is one of six major structures statewide slated for demolition as “functionally obsolete.” This has triggered some controversy in Nashville because of what Cate called the building’s “perceived historical significance.”

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Legislators criticize prison medical contract

A legislative watchdog group agreed Monday to delve deeper into the state Department of Correction’s awarding of a $200 million-plus contract to handle inmate health care to a relative newcomer despite its $6.4 million higher bid, reports the Chattanooga TFP.
Fiscal Review Committee members want the winner of the contract, Centurion LLC, to come before the panel in September.
Correction Department officials went before Fiscal Review for approval of their request to extend the current contract of Brentwood, Tenn.-based Corizon until Sept. 30 to provide Centurion additional time to prepare taking over the service.
While the business at hand was the 90-day extension of Corizon’s existing contract, committee members devoted most of their time questioning Centurion’s winning of the new three-year contract.
Corizon, which had the existing contract, lost the competition to Centurion on the new three-year contract. Corizon protested but two state panels upheld the award to Centurion, the most recent coming in a June 6 ruling.
Recently, Correction Department officials said, Corizon indicated it would not push the protest further by going to court.
Lawmakers criticized the request-for-proposal process and raised concerns about the higher cost and what they see as the recently created Centurion’s relative lack of experience.
Rep. Tim Wirgau, R-Buchanan, said it raises “red flags” for him.
“Give me some reasons why you decided to spend $6.4 million more,” he told Wes Landers, chief financial officer for the Correction Department.
Rep. Jeremy Faison, R-Cosby, was highly critical of Centurion’s experience.
“That seems a little shady there,” Faison said, adding that the state either had standards or not in awarding points in the request-for-proposal process for experience.
In remarks both during the committee and afterward, Wes Landers, the Correction Department’s chief financial officer, defended the decision to go with Centurion.

Pellissippi Audit: Some Irregularities, but $10M a Reasonable Price

A review of a Pellissippi State Community College building purchase has concluded that there were some missteps and misinformation along the way, but it was reasonable for the state to pay $10 million, twice its previous purchase price, for a long-vacant office building in need of extensive repairs.
Further from The Tennessean:
In a nine-page report recently forwarded to John Morgan, chancellor of the Tennessee Board of Regents, the director of audits in the state comptroller’s office concluded that “the price of the property was negotiated and the acquisition price appeared reasonable.”
The report, however, found several irregularities, including two back-to-back six-month leases for that same Knox County building, which were not properly approved. The leases preceded the purchase and were signed by then-Pellissippi State Community College president Allen Edwards, the prime mover behind the purchase.
The report also found that there was a $2 million discrepancy in the reported purchase and repair estimates sent from the state Board of Regents to the state building commission before a key vote. The figure was later corrected.
In a Jan. 24 presentation, college officials pegged the estimated purchase price at $8 million, with an additional $2 million needed for repairs. In fact, the state already had offered $10 million for the property and $2 million more was needed for immediate repairs. “Although the $8 million offering price was presented as an estimate, it was known or should have been known that the offer price was $10 million at the time of the presentation,” the report states.
Minutes show that state Comptroller Justin Wilson, whose office prepared the audit report, was present at that Jan. 24 meeting, in which the purchase was approved without opposition. Wilson is a member of the state building commission and its executive subcommittee.
State building officials also were told at that meeting, according to the report, that the proposed expansion of Pellissippi State was included in a college master plan.
In fact it was Wilson, according to the minutes, who asked if the property “is in the master plan, and was told ‘yes.’ ”
“The (2007) master plan did not include a proposed new campus for eastern Knox County,” the audit report states.
As The Tennessean reported late last year, the building was purchased for $10 million on March 9, 2012, from a group of politically connected investors who bought it in 2007 for $5 million.
The investment group was headed by Samuel J. Furrow, a Knoxville auctioneer and developer. At the time of the purchase, Furrow’s wife had a $1 million mortgage on a Nantucket Island vacation home from James A. Haslam II, Gov. Bill Haslam’s father.

State Evaluating Bids for relocating displaced employees

Bids under seal with state officials could move the first workers out of the Cordell Hull Building and into private office space by March of next year, reports The Tennessean.
Six firms, including Lifeway Christian Resources and Bellsouth Telecommunications LLC, have submitted offers to lease out space for 301 workers in the Department of Children’s Services. The state plans to settle on a deal no later than Aug. 19.
The offers were made last week under a bidding process that also names Jones Lang LaSalle as the state’s broker, giving the Chicago real estate firm a 4 percent commission if a deal is closed.
The Department of General Services has refused to release information about the offers — apart from the bidders’ names — until a winner is chosen and a recommendation sent to the State Building Commission. Officials maintain that the state’s open records law allows them to accept real estate bids under seal.
About 1,000 state workers currently work in Cordell Hull, a nine-story office block next to the state Capitol. Citing a review done by Jones Lang LaSalle, state officials say water persistently seeps into the nearly 60-year-old building. They say it would cost the state more than $24 million to keep Cordell Hull in service.
Lawmakers approved a state budget in April that included funding to shut down Cordell Hull, an annex called the Central Services Building, the Tennessee Regulatory Authority’s headquarters and three other state buildings in Chattanooga and Memphis.


See also the Chattanooga TFP, which reports on six sealed bids for housing displaced Chattanooga state employees.

State, Florida Company Reap Profits from Prisoners’ Families

Family and friends of about 20,000 inmates in the Tennessee prison system now must pay a commission to a private for-profit Florida company when they want to send money to the inmates’ trust accounts, and the state will get a cut, too.
Further from The Tennessean:
Under a contract awarded late last year and recently expanded, JPay of Miami charges fees of up to 4.5 percent to forward money to Tennessee inmates. The state under the contract also gets its share of the payments, a 50 cent fee for every transaction.
Advocates say the arrangement amounts to a kickback for the state and places an unfair burden on relatives of inmates, who often have limited resources.
“It’s a tax on citizens with the least ability to pay,” said Alex Friedmann of Prison Legal News, who said that he has received several complaints from relatives of inmates.
He said that many of the complaints involved lengthy delays in getting the money in the inmates’ accounts.
Corrections officials, however, say that the new system is an improvement, and that thus far the state’s income from the contract has been only $15,000.
“The vast majority of families and friends who have contacted us are pleased with the service and the convenience it offers,” corrections spokeswoman Dorinda Carter wrote in an email response to questions.
…The state never formally advertised for bids on the contract, though officials say they did review a proposal from another company, which, like JPay, had been recommended by a national association of state purchasing agents.
JPay also offers an email service for inmates, with the state getting a 4 percent commission.
,,,The contract replaces a system under which deposits in prisoners’ accounts were mailed directly to the 15 correctional facilities.
…n addition to the requirement to use JPay for inmates’ deposits, the state recently expanded JPay’s role to include payments of probation fees imposed on released inmates.
In addition to the money forwarding services, JPay’s contract also provides for video visits, songs or albums on an MP3 and a JP4 player.
For those services, the state’s commission jumps to as much as $10 per purchase.

Comptroller once thought JLL commission deal ‘suspicious’

Phil Williams has collected emails from state officials involved in a multi-million dollar contract for managing state buildings, focusing on the commission Jones Lang LaSalle receives. An excerpt from the WTVF-TV report:
Three months later, state Comptroller Justin Wilson’s staff discovered JLL was negotiating new lease agreements and telling landlords they would be expected to pay an extra 4 percent commission to the firm if they wanted to lease the state a building.
“A commission to JLL at first blush seems very wrong,” Wilson emailed his staff. “I am suspicious to say the least.”
He was suspicious because, when JLL put in a bid for the state’s business, they were asked how much extra they would charge to work on leases.
Their contract said: $0.00.
Notes from contract reviewers in the comptroller’s office show that an attorney working for General Services Commissioner Steve Cates “agreed that there was no statute, rule or policy that authorized the commission, nor did the contract authorize it. It was her understanding that, since the Lessor and not the State was paying JLL the commission, it was OK.”

But Wilson subsequently wound up approving the arrangement as a member of the State Building Commission. The TV station says his office won’t discuss the matter now because the Department of General Services is going through a scheduled audit and the contract is part of that review.

Jones Lang LaSalle Contracts With Nashville Lobbyist

The Chicago-based company that holds a controversial multimillion-dollar contract to manage state government buildings and leases has hired a lobbyist who formerly worked for House Speaker Beth Harwell and the state Republican Party.
Gregory Gleaves registered June 18 as lobbyist for Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle, according to the Tennessee Ethics Commission website. That was about the time media reports emerged on how the company’s dealings with the state expanded from an initial $1 million study of state buildings into a contract worth up to $330 million, prompting legislative leaders to say they’ll have a committee look into the matter.
“Obviously Jones Lang LaSalle has gotten some attention lately,” Gleaves said in an email response to an inquiry about his new lobbying position. “My job is to ensure that what they are doing for the state is clearly understood. Jones Lang LaSalle is helping the state in its vision to save money for Tennessee taxpayers. I am pleased to play a role in telling that story.”
Gleaves was executive director of the Tennessee Republican Party when hired by Harwell as her chief of staff in 2011. He stepped down in July 2012, to become a lobbyist with Hall Strategies, which declared in a news release that he “spearheaded efforts that led to dramatic change in Tennessee politics” while at the state GOP.

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Legislators May Eye Jones Lang LaSalle Dealings

A Democratic legislative leader said Tuesday he will ask legislative committees to review a five-year $330 million contract with the Chicago-based multinational consulting firm Jones Lang LaSalle , reports the Commercial Appeal.
Gov. Bill Haslam disclosed an investment in the company while running for governor in 2010, but not the amount of that investment. He now has most of his investments — except for Pilot Flying J — in a blind trust.
Jones Lang LaSalle is the firm that last year recommended the state move out of its 43-year-old Donnelley J. Hill State Office Building in Downtown Memphis and five other state-owned buildings in Nashville and Chattanooga because it said they are “functionally obsolete.” JLL is helping the state find 100,000 square feet of leased office space Downtown where employees of 12 agencies and departments currently working in the Hill Building would move.
The state’s involvement with JLL has come under increasing scrutiny since its initial $1 million contract has grown to $4.5 million to $7.6 million and it won a new contact that pays Jones Lang LaSalle about $38 million over five years for management and labor for managing state buildings. It has a maximum liability to the state of $330 million, which includes costs that JLL will pay on a pass-through basis from the state, such as electrical, ventilating, janitorial, security and landscaping vendors with no markup in costs, the Department of General Servicers said.
JLL is essentially assuming responsibility for an ambitious Haslam administration plan to consolidate as much state office space as possible called “Project T3” for “Transforming Tennessee for Tomorrow,” which state officials believe will save taxpayers over $135 million during the next 10 years
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Note: See also the Chattanooga Times-Free Press. Excerpt:
(Gubernatorial spokesman) David Smith said Tuesday the governor himself is unaware whether he still has any investment and wouldn’t be swayed even if he did.
“That’s the whole point of a blind trust,” Smith said, adding, “This is a project that is slated to save the state millions of dollars and it’s good government.”