Tag Archives: contracts

Tom Ingram’s pay for UT ‘communications strategies:’ $240K

Veteran political operative Tom Ingram will be paid up to $240,000 for a year’s work “developing communications strategies” for the University of Tennessee in connection with a lawsuit contending UT was a “hostile sexual environment” for women, reports the News Sentinel.

If paid to the maximum, that would be more money than the highest-paid communications executive for the university.

While the one-page agreement, a letter from UT to its outside legal counsel, doesn’t identify the specialist, Tom Ingram confirmed he continues to work for the Nashville-based Neal & Harwell law firm, which represents the university in Title IX matters.

Even though the lawsuit is settled, work remains to be done on media inquiries to UT President Joe DiPietro on the forming of an independent commission that will review the UT system’s policies and programs to address sexual assault, Ingram said.

He said issues like Title IX get “so complicated and so multi-dimensional” that the settlement, which looks like an end, really isn’t the end of the follow-up work.

Ingram said there is no set time frame for when that work will end.

A paid consultant for Haslam until last July, Ingram is the founder of Nashville-based public relations and lobbying firm the Ingram Group. (Note: He’s also been a longtime political aide to U.S. Sens. Lamar Alexander and Bob Corker.)

“It’s a shame that they (the university) were in that situation,” said Williams, whose lobbying organization focuses on government accountability. “How much difference it was having Tom (Ingram) do that? I don’t know.”

He wonders what the university received that it couldn’t get from its communications staff.

…The letter confirming Ingram’s hiring, dated May 2, doesn’t include specifics of the “communications strategies” he was hired to execute. His services, however, are on top of the more than $424,500 in combined salary for communications leaders for the system and campus, Vice President Tonja Johnson and former Vice Chancellor Margie Nichols.

Ingram and his employees, through the law firm, are helping with “inquiries about the Title IX case” and “providing communications support for follow-up efforts that are part of the settlement,” Johnson said in an email.

Those efforts include the president’s commission and more, such as employee training.

Aramark gets state prison food contract

After opting to end its relationship with a troubled state-based food provider, the Tennessee Department of Correction chose a company with its own history of issues as its replacement, reports The Tennessean.

The department plans to award its food services contract to Aramark, a massive Philadelphia-based company that provides food for many large venues across the country, including Nissan Stadium.

“After the State and Aramark negotiate and finalize a contract, the expected start date for food delivery will be October 1, 2016,” the department said in a news release issued late Wednesday. Continue reading

TRICOR blasted; Yager wants ouster of CEO, directors

Senate State and Local Government Committee Chairman Ken Yager says the the state agency that oversees prison labor, Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction or TRICOR, needs a new board of directors and a replacement for its CEO, Patricia Weiland.

So reports The Tennessean. Further:

“I don’t have any confidence in her ability to clean up this problem that has been created under her watch,” Yager said Thursday when asked whether Weiland should resign.

The comments followed a tongue lashing from Yager and other lawmakers during a Thursday morning legislative hearing. Lawmakers remain upset over the findings of an audit from the Tennessee comptroller. The audit outlined substantial financial mismanagement and mistakes that led to TRICOR operating at a $4 million loss and deciding to end its prison food program.

In addition to criticizing Weiland and TRICOR over financial mismanagement, Yager also blasted the longtime CEO for spending $5,000 of TRICOR funds on Nashville-based public relations firm McNeely Pigott & Fox to help prepare her to testify in 2015.

“I think to pay a public relations person to coach you up for a hearing is a waste of taxpayers’ money … and frankly when I received this email I was absolutely shocked,” Yager said.

“I think that as an official, you’re an appointed official and not elected, you’re expected to make your own case without hiring a publicist to help coach you through it.”

Weiland initially declined to comment on the hearing, trying to avoid questions as a spokeswoman attempted to waylay reporters in the corridors at the statehouse. She eventually said she plans to fix the issues at TRICOR, arguing there aren’t a slew of lawmakers questioning her leadership capacity.

“I only heard one senator say that. I’m a 36-year public servant; my record is open to the public. I’ve been a very passionate public servant for the state of Tennessee,” Weiland said.

“We’re moving forward. There’s a 20-year history. This is a blip on the radar. Taxpayer money was not sacrificed, it was not lost. It was used to provide food to the Department of Correction.”

…But Jason Mumpower, chief of staff to Tennessee Comptroller Justin Wilson, argued that money is taxpayer money because most of TRICOR’s clients are state agencies.

“TRICOR’s deficiencies were eye-opening and they need to be addressed,” Mumpower told lawmakers, adding the agency created an environment where fraud was “ripe to occur.”

TRICOR operated what it called the “Tennessee Cook Chill” program for several years, sending millions of meals to Tennessee prisons. Weiland told The Tennessean in December that TRICOR will end the arrangement with the department by June.

TRICOR stops providing prisoner meals, moves on

The leader of a recently criticized inmate rehabilitation organization tells The Tennessean that it will not be seriously impacted by termination of a contract for providing meals to Tennessee prisons.

The decision to eliminate the multi-million dollar program won’t be drastic for the Tennessee Rehabilitative Initiative in Correction, or TRICOR, said CEO Patricia Weiland. Instead, it’s one of a number of decisions aimed at improving the organization’s business model and bolstering a reputation earned through 17 years of success, Weiland argued.

“You asked why legislators should keep TRICOR going? My question is why would they even think of not?” Weiland said Friday, during an extensive interview with The Tennessean.
No lawmaker has questioned the mission of the organization, but they have questioned its financial management.

TRICOR provides jobs for people incarcerated in Tennessee. For the last five years TRICOR has employed roughly 60 inmates to run the Tennessee Cook Chill program — named for the process of producing and chilling food before it is shipped to its final destination — that has created millions of meals for the Tennessee Department of Correction.

The inmates working at Cook Chill account for a small portion of the roughly 1,250 to 1,350 offenders working in various TRICOR operations at any given time, Weiland said. TRICOR also employs 122 people as state workers, with a roughly $5.3 million annual payroll. Although the Cook Chill program will be eliminated, Weiland said TRICOR plans to move those 60 positions to other parts of its business.

“We were very successful before Cook Chill, we’ll be very successful after Cook Chill,” Weiland said.

Memphis mayor’s campaign manager drops $880K contract

Following a tumultuous week for Mayor A C Wharton’s re-election effort, campaign manager Deidre Malone and contractor Taser International announced Thursday that Malone won’t be marketing the city’s new body cameras, reports the Commercial Appeal.

Under intense scrutiny, Malone and Taser agreed to cancel her company’s five-year, $880,147 subcontract “by mutual consent.” Arizona-based Taser was hired Sept. 2 to provide 2,000 body cameras to the city for $4.5 million in the first year with multiple extension options that are expected to increase the contract to $9.4 million over five years. Malone’s company was selected by Taser to provide marketing for the program.

In a statement Thursday afternoon, Taser executive Steve Tuttle said the company was “disappointed” that Carter Malone Group didn’t disclose Malone’s paid role in the campaign. Taser representatives had previously stated they found out about her connection to Wharton in late August.

“While The Carter Malone Group was selected based upon merit and its quality of work, TASER has a code of Business Conduct and Ethics which prohibits its contractors from having a business relationship that can even be perceived as an attempt to influence business decisions,” Tuttle said.

Taser is still committed to meeting the city’s goal of having 10 percent minority- or women-owned business participation in the project, and would work with the city to find a substitute, he said.

Malone didn’t return a call seeking comment Thursday, but released a statement that she had done nothing that “can be considered unethical or improper.”

State spending $493K to renovate ECD offices

While Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration moves toward outsourcing management and operations of all state-owned buildings, parks, prisons and college campuses with a goal of saving taxpayers money, it’s also spending $493,000 to renovate a single floor in a state office tower.

Further from Richard Locker:

That project will knock down walls, install a more open office layout and upgrade restrooms on the 27th floor of the Tennessee Tower state office building across the street from the State Capitol. The floor houses the headquarters of the Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development, and was where the governor himself worked for eight months in 2012 during a major renovation of the Capitol.

The project is the first of several similar “alternative workplace solutions” renovations planned by the same small cadre of contracted consultants and top-level state employees also running the governor’s controversial real-estate outsourcing initiative, which would turn over the management and operations of all state-owned property — including college campuses — to a private-sector contractor.

Operating under the direction of Haslam’s appointed chief operating officer, Greg Adams, the “Office of Customer Focused Government” has four projects underway: the overall facilities management outsourcing initiative; the “alternative workplace solutions” effort focused on consolidating office space; an energy efficiency project; and a separate effort on “real estate process improvements.”

The Building Commission, which is controlled by legislative rather than executive branch appointees, delayed action earlier this month on the request to approve and expedite the project — but then approved it without discussion on Monday.

…(General Services Commissioner Bob) Oglesby told the commission (earlier) the project was “specifically requested” by ECD Commissioner Randy Boyd to increase productivity of his agency. Boyd, a Knoxville businessman, headed Haslam’s efforts to increase the number of Tennesseans with college degrees and post-high-school certificates until the governor appointed him ECD commissioner in January.

Feds investigating Goodwill government contracts

Federal agents raided Memphis Goodwill offices near Bartlett, apparently as part of an investigation into government contracts the nonprofit group has for employment of the poor or disabled.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office won’t comment on the “ongoing investigation,” reports the Commercial Appeal, but Goodwill president and CEO Tony Martini issued a statement Thursday.

“We had been in regular contact with the commission who oversees these agreements about questions they had on certain elements of contract requirements,” Martini said in the statement. “On our end, we’ve worked tirelessly to address their concerns and get things right-tracked, and we’ll continue to do so. So while this particular issue was one we had become aware of, the manner of yesterday’s visit definitely was a surprise.

“We will keep working alongside everyone involved to ensure we reach a timely resolution so that we may focus on our mission of job creation and support for those with barriers to employment.”

While officers were at Goodwill headquarters Wednesday, attorneys for the nonprofit reached an out-of-court settlement with a fired vice president who alleged fraud with one of the nonprofit organization’s contracts. The terms of the settlement are confidential.

Martini said the settlement and the investigation are unrelated.

The settlement stems from a lawsuit Thomas Murach filed against Goodwill in July 2014 after he says he was wrongfully terminated after he alerted the CEO and a board member to possibly fraudulent activities with a $3.5 million cleaning contract that Goodwill had to provide cleaning services for the Internal Revenue Service offices in Memphis.

FBI investigating TDOT contracts, raids road company offices

The FBI raided the offices of a Williamson County construction company as part of an ongoing investigation into nine Tennessee Department of Transportation and two Metro Nashville Airport Authority contracts, reports The Tennessean.

The agents seized payroll records, contract files, work orders and computer hard drives from the College Grove offices of G&M Associates. Jones Brothers, one of the largest road contractors in the Southeast, and two of its affiliate companies are implicated in the investigation, according to a search warrant.

Jones Brothers and the two affiliated companies, Mountain States Contractors and Hot Mix Asphalt, were allegedly involved in a scheme to fraudulently land government contracts intended for companies that promise to subcontract a certain percentage of the work to women- or minority-owned small businesses, the search warrant documents state.

The investigation is focused on the federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program, which is supposed to help jumpstart businesses owned by women and minorities. The government, which has been cracking down on procurement fraud, can recoup up to three times the contract amount and levy fines.

Mt. Juliet-based Jones Brothers, according to the warrant, named a minority-owned firm in its contract, but instead did work the subcontractor G&M Associates was supposed to do, even going as far as to cover the company logo on their trucks with the minority-owned contractor’s logo. According to the search warrant, the FBI has evidence that “the primary contractors obtained various contracts fraudulently, aided and abetted by G&M.” The FBI raid took place in May.

The federal investigation was prompted by a 2012 whistleblower lawsuit filed by a former employee of Jones Brothers, who said he was fired after raising concerns about fraudulent activity. A federal judge has given the government until June 1 to decide whether to intervene in the whistleblower suit and bring charges against Jones Brothers, its affiliated companies and G&M Associates.

A spokesman for Jones Brothers said the company has cooperated with the federal inquiry by providing hundreds of pages of documents, which the company says show there was no wrongdoing. G&M Associates referred questions to its attorney, who also denied the company had done anything wrong.

State’s $37.5M TennCare computer contract terminated

TennCare officials and contractor Northrop Grumman Corp. have agreed to part ways over a troubled $37.5 million computer system that was supposed to be making Medicaid eligibility determinations a year ago this month, reports the Chattanooga TFP.

In a statement, the TennCare Bureau says that after receiving detailed findings on problems from a report by its independent consulting firm, KPMG LLC, “the state and current vendor have mutually decided it to be in their respective best interests to terminate the current contract early.

“The state will be moving forward with the process to select a new vendor,” the statement adds.

TennCare spokeswoman Kelly Gunderson said in response to questions that “some” of Northrop Grumman’s work “is usable. Once we have a new vendor they will also be able to perform an assessment to determine the extent to which the current technology could be integrated with the new technology.”

No time table was provided.

The state has already paid Northrop Grumman $4.6 million on development of its Tennessee Eligibility Determination System (TEDS). Because 90 percent of the project was funded by the federal goverment, the state is out about $460,000.

According to a recent Tennessee Comptroller’s performance audit of TennCare operations, Northrop project managers provided two explanations for delays. One was the bureau requested the eligiblity system be fully tested before becoming available for public use.

“Therefore, complex testing on Release 1 must be conducted before work on Release 2 can begin,” the audit says.

The company also blamed federal regulation changes for some delays in testing. When the regulations change, project staff “must make adjustments to the system and test all of the changes,” auditors noted.

Note: The official TennCare announcement, via news release, is HERE.

Haslam administration kept secret a $100K payment for violating contract

State government has paid $100,000 to settle a claim by a moving company that Gov. Bill Haslam’s administration illegally broke a contract – then kept the payment secret, according to WTVF-TV.

In fact, our investigation discovered the Haslam administration never even told the lawmakers who watch over the state’s contracts.

“I didn’t even know there was a settlement,” said Rep. Mark Pody, R-Lebanon. “It was my understanding that everything was worked out.”

Pody, who sits on the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, was talking about the secret “compromise and settlement agreement” obtained by NewsChannel 5 Investigates — a settlement signed by the governor himself.

“When I heard there was a settlement, that was extremely concerning,” Pody said. “And then when I hear that it’s a confidential settlement where we can’t even publicly find out what the issues are or why we settled … that is extremely unsettling.”
While the settlement agreement prohibited both sides from discussing the deal, NewsChannel 5 was able to obtain details by filing a request under the Tennessee Public Records Act. (Read the settlement documents.)

Even more disturbing, Pody said, is our discovery from emails that the state’s settlement talks appear to have intensified after Sanders’ attorney asked to take the testimony of the state employee who had written “we’ve already broken several laws.”

“If laws were broken, we need to find out what happened and why and put processes in place in an open way where that does not or cannot happen,” the lawmaker added.

…State officials refused to discuss the settlement, again citing the agreement that they signed saying that they would not talk about what they did with your money.

…NewsChannel 5 Investigates also discovered that the Haslam administration also agreed to pay $900,000 last year to the owner of the L&C Tower in downtown Nashville.

That came after the state canceled a lease it had there. … Just like in the Sanders Moving case, that agreement was also labeled “confidential.”

At the center of the dispute is a claim filed over the Haslam administration’s massive effort to relocate thousands of state employees into new, redesigned offices.

Sanders Moving had the state’s moving contract, but the Haslam administration abruptly cancelled it, awarding much of the work to Flood Brothers out of Atlanta.

Emails show one state employee, Kurt Herron, objected, writing: “We’ve already broken several laws.”

“The original contract was broken, according to these emails, in order that Flood Brothers be brought on to the contract,” said Sanders’ lawyer, Harold Donnelly, in an interview last year. Haslam administration officials assured state lawmakers last year that those claims were bogus.