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Haslam Administration Faces New Contract Allegations

Haslam Administration Faces New Contract Allegations

By Phil Williams. CREATED Aug 22, 2013

NASHVILLE, Tenn. - There are new allegations of contract shenanigans by the Haslam administration.

The allegations come from a Nashville-area moving company, accusing state officials of bending the rules so that they could give taxpayers' money to an out-of-state competitor.

It's the latest in a string of questionable contracts uncovered by NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

These allegations come in a legal claim just filed against the Tennessee Department of General Services.

It essentially accuses state officials of bid-rigging.

At the center of the controversy is the Haslam administration's massive plan to remodel all state offices requiring a highly orchestrated effort to move employees in and out of state buildings for the construction.

That plan has been dubbed Project T3, a shorthand reference to Transforming Tennessee for Tomorrow.

When the process first started, Ted R. Sanders Moving Company had the state's moving contract.

But, last fall, the company suddenly learned that the Haslam administration was cutting that contract short, according to the legal claim filed against the state, alleging "breach of contract."

"The Department has provided varying stories on why it 'needed' to cancel said contract," says the claim, filed by Nashville attorney Harold Donnelly.

"Sanders submits that the primary reason, if not the sole reason, was because it desired an out-of-state moving company ... to be added to the contract."

That company was Flood Brothers Moving, out of Atlanta. The claim hints at a connection between Flood Brothers and an official at Jones Lang Lasalle -- the big corporation that the Haslam administration put in charge of the state's property.

While the governor has insisted everything is above board with the state's contracts, the claim alleges that Flood Brothers was even "allowed to submit a new bid" -- after its competitors submitted their prices.

The claim calls that "a frantic, unlawful, improper attempt to bring Flood's bid up to par so that the Department could then turn around and award the contract to Flood."

It adds, "The Department's actions beg the question: why was Flood winning this contract so important that the Department employees would flout the law?"

As a result of those efforts, Sanders Moving claims it lost out on more than $300,000 in state business and should be reimbursed for its losses.

But an attorney for Flood Brothers dismissed any suggestions of shenanigans involving the contract.

"Their position is that this was a perfectly legitimate bid on their part," Mike Ruberti told NewsChannel 5 Investigates.

A spokesperson for the Department of General Services declined to comment, saying the matter is now in the hands of state lawyers.

"The AG's office has just learned of this claim and has no comment at this time," added Sharon Curtis-Flair, a spokesperson for Tennessee Attorney General Bob Cooper.

Under state rules, the Tennessee Division of Claims Administration will refer the claim to the AG's office, which will have 90 days to investigate it.  If the claim is not approved, denied or resolved within 90 days, the claim goes to the Tennessee Claims Commission for adjudication.

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Phil Williams

Phil Williams

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Phil Williams is chief investigative reporter for NewsChannel 5's nationally award-winning investigative team. His investigations have earned him journalism's highest honors.