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.
While the head of Tennessee’s newly centralized procurement system provided examples to legislators of savings to taxpayers last week, declaring they collectively total $113 million to day, state Rep. Jeremy Faison offered another example that didn’t sound so good.
Chief Procurement Officer Mike Perry’s examples included a dozen “ballpoint stick pens” that previously cost the state $1.55 for a box of a dozen versus 47 cents today and a ream of paper, previously $3.10, now $2.77.
Office supplies counted for $8 million of the projected $113 million in savings, a figure that includes comparing new multiyear contracts with old ones as well as some one-time purchases. The biggest projected savings, $33 million, was on Oracle software through “strategic sourcing,” which involves negotiating with current contract holders.
In the latter case, the vendor initially said that new software needed to bring TennCare computers into compliance with new provisions of federal law would cost $39 million, Perry said. After the negotiation, the price was $6 million.
The state comptroller on Monday issued a stern warning to Memphis officials about the city’s fiscal condition, reports the Commercial Appeal. He focused concerns on a debt refinance plan the city wants to undertake that defers debt to about 2025. State Comptroller Justin P. Wilson called such fiscal moves “scoop and toss” because they defer debt years down the road.
The comptroller late Monday released copies of a letter and financial report he sent to Mayor A C Wharton and City Council members earlier in the day that reveal officials have been in discussions with the state’s chief fiscal compliance officer for several weeks about Memphis finances.
In the letter, Wilson outlined several corrective measures the city must take before he will sign off on the municipal bond refunding plan — designed to defer obligations to 2025 and free up more cash flow for current obligations — but Wilson said those steps are more technical in nature and the city needs to address its underlying fiscal problems of low fund reserves, a declining tax base and budgetary imbalance.
In the letter, the comptroller wrote that “It is critical that Memphis change its course to reverse” those trends. “Tough decisions are necessary to change that direction. Failure to make the decisions could have very serious consequences. I pledge our support.”
In a brief interview later, Wilson said that the city’s “financial reporting is good. And Mayor Wharton to his credit recognizes they have a serious problem that if not corrected, could lead to real disaster. I think they’ve recognized this can’t go on forever. Apparently this has been building up for a long period of time.
News release from Administrative Office of the Courts:
Nashville, Tenn. – The Tennessee Board of Judicial Conduct has issued a public censure and a public reprimand to Circuit Court Judge John K. Wilson of the Third Judicial District.
Judge Wilson’s censure is a result of his conduct at 2011 deposition in addition to failure to abide by a resolution and agreement previously reached with the Court of the Judiciary.
The reprimand was due to an improper ex parte hearing and improper ex parte relief granted with respect to a petition to modify a permanent parenting plan.
Because it is a public censure rather than just a public reprimand, the judge will be required to personally appear before Board of Judicial Conference at its August meeting pursuant to Tenn. Code Ann. ‘ 17-5-301(g)(2) & (4).
Judge Wilson has been a judge since 1979. The Third Judicial District serves Greene, Hamblen, Hancock and Hawkins counties.
The complete text of the censure and reprimand can be found HERE.
Joint news release from House and Senate Republican Caucuses:
(NASHVILLE) – In a joint session of the Tennessee Senate and the Tennessee House of Representatives today members unanimously re-elected Secretary of State Tre Hargett, Treasurer David H. Lillard, Jr. and Comptroller Justin P. Wilson. Secretary Hargett will serve his second four-year term, while Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson will each serve two-year terms. All three were originally elected to their posts by the General Assembly in January, 2009. Treasurer Lillard and Comptroller Wilson were re-elected to their second two-year terms in January, 2011.
Senate and House leaders congratulated the Constitutional Officers today, and released the following statements:
“While many Tennesseans don’t know what they do, the constitutional officers are really the unsung heroes of state government. They work – often behind the scenes but sometimes in the harsh glare of the media spotlight – to make sure that our state’s investments are managed properly, that public employees have a financially sound retirement system, that taxpayer money isn’t wasted, stolen or misused at the local or state levels of government, that local governments get the assistance they need to be successful in various levels of their operations, that our elections run smoothly, that our public libraries have the support they need to provide excellent service to Tennesseans. Tennesseans are lucky to have leaders like Comptroller Wilson, Treasurer Lillard and Secretary of State Hargett overseeing these essential services of state government.” -Lieutenant Governor Ron Ramsey
“Tennessee is in excellent financial condition – and the work of our three constitutional officers has played no small part in that. As members of the State Funding Board, they set revenue estimates that are used by the governor, his staff and members of the General Assembly for budget planning purposes. They also appear regularly before the major rating agencies that determine how strong Tennessee’s credit ratings will be. They also provide helpful advice and information to help members of the General Assembly do their jobs better.” -House Speaker Beth Harwell
“I am very proud of the work Treasurer Lillard, Comptroller Wilson and Secretary of State Hargett have done over the last four years. They have made many major improvements to make Tennessee state government work more efficiently and effectively which benefits all Tennesseans. All three of these public servants are well deserving of another term in office.” -Senate Majority Leader Mark Norris
“Reforming government is something that’s easy to talk about, but difficult to do. These three constitutional officers have spent the last four years challenging traditional thinking about the way their offices should operate and, as a result, their offices are operating more efficiently and effectively than ever before. They have made the offices more accessible by making more services available over the Internet and have found ways to maximize the productivity of their employees.” -House Majority Leader Gerald McCormick.
LEBANON, Tenn. (AP) — The Wilson County Tea Party is disbanding.
The Tennessean reports (http://tnne.ws/TRr5Sc) organizer Sherrie Orange told supporters in an email last Monday that after three-plus years of work, the group was calling it quits immediately.
She wrote, “Everyone in this core group is tired and, as a result, we have made the very difficult decision that we can no longer continue running the Wilson County Tea Party.”
Recently, the group fought the creation of a state-run health insurance exchange under the Affordable Care Act. Ultimately, Gov. Bill Haslam did not create a state-run exchange, leaving the task of operating the exchange to the federal government.
News release from state comptroller’s office:
The State of Tennessee sold more than $170 million worth of general obligation bonds this week at the lowest overall interest rates in more than 40 years. The debt offering was sold in two parts, consisting of $140,000,000 in tax-exempt bonds and $30,525,000 of federally taxable bonds. The combined true interest cost of the bonds was 2.05 percent.
The tax-exempt bond proceeds will be used to fund new capital projects while the proceeds from the taxable issue will be used to refinance currently outstanding bonds.
The refinanced bonds will result in present value savings to the state of $2,607,000 over an eight-year period.
“We chose to refinance some of our bonds at this time because interest rates were so low,” said Comptroller Justin P. Wilson, who serves as secretary of the State Funding Board. “The low interest rates we were able to get demonstrate, once again, that the state is in excellent financial health.”
“Over the last 15 months, we have saved the state more than $63.6 million through refinancing, said State Treasurer David H. Lillard Jr., who is also a State Funding Board member. “We believe that’s part of our mission to be good stewards of public money.”
“Tennessee has continued to maintain strong credit ratings, which makes low interest rates possible,” said Secretary of State Tre Hargett. “We are able to maintain those credit ratings because of the excellent work done by the General Assembly, the governor and his administrative staff in managing our state’s finances.”
By Erik Schelzig, Associated Press
NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Comptroller Justin Wilson’s move to automatically waive the first $25 in fees for public records requests is drawing praise from open government advocates.
The proposed rules, which would also give the comptroller the discretion to waive all costs related to public record searches and copies, were unanimously recommended for adoption by the Joint Government Operations Committees on Wednesday.
“The fee waiver provisions are progressive for Tennessee and should be a model for other state and local agencies,” said Frank Gibson, the founding director of the Tennessee Coalition on Open Government.
Terry Ashe will no longer be Wilson County’s sheriff after 30 years in the position, announcing Tuesday he has accepted an appointment to become the executive director of the Tennessee Sheriffs’ Association, according to The Tennessean. Ashe, 63, will relinquish his post as sheriff on Sept. 30, and will take over as full-time executive director of the state Sheriffs’ Association Oct. 1. Assistant Chief Robert Bryan will take over as the Wilson County sheriff.
“I’ve learned a lot about public responsibility,” Ashe said. “This organization has a great opportunity. We’re fighting for victims of crime across the state. The training that we’re giving our sheriffs totally relates to doing the right thing and learning how to run the office of sheriff and working with these jails and trying to make sure these jails are run right. That training we’re giving our sheriffs comes out of this organization.”
Ashe has been the acting director of the sheriffs’ association about two years while keeping his post as Wilson County sheriff. He was a unanimous choice by the sheriffs’ association, whose main objective is to train sheriffs across the state, Ashe said.
State Comptroller Justin Wilson writes in an op-ed piece: Early in the session and with little fanfare, lawmakers approved legislation that has the potential to create many new jobs in communities throughout our state. It’s called the Uniformity in Tax Increment Financing Act of 2012, a measure that gives economic development officials in our cities and counties an attractive incentive to offer businesses.
Tax increment financing — or TIF, as it is frequently called — is a method for paying for community improvements with future tax revenues. For example, consider what happens when a government decides to invest in new roads, street lights, water and sewer lines or other infrastructure improvements in a neighborhood.
Typically, the value of the property in that neighborhood will increase, which means tax collections from the area should also increase. TIF uses the extra tax revenues collected after the property value rises to recoup the costs of the government’s infrastructure investments.
In other words, it’s a way to allow growth to pay for itself. While we had laws on the books allowing for TIF before this year’s legislative session, they were confusing and sometimes contradictory.