The Tennessee Conservative [By Adelia Kirchner] –
A member of Governor Bill Lee’s Office of Faith-Based and Community Initiatives board has secured millions of dollars in state contracts through a business formed only three days before the governor’s 2019 inauguration.
Gov. Lee appointed Aubrey Elizabeth “Libby” Phillips to the board of directors for his newly established faith-based office board in 2020.
This year, Tennessee’s state legislature approved a $1.2 million budget for Gov. Lee’s faith-based office. This is the first time taxpayer dollars have been directly allocated to the office since its creation.
In fact, all six members of the volunteer board of directors contributed to Gov. Lee’s 2018 campaign.
Phillips and her family contributed a total of $8,250 to Gov. Lee’s 2018 gubernatorial run.
On January 16th, 2019, Phillips filed paperwork with Tennessee’s Secretary of State to form a new business.
Gov. Lee was sworn into office on January 19th, 2019.
Just nine months later, Phillips’ business landed its first state contract.
According to contract records, Phillips’ right-of-way mowing contractor business, Big Al Mowing, has won $4.7 million in state contracts with the Tennessee Department of Transportation (TDOT) since 2019.
The company is described on Phillips’ LinkedIn profile as “a roadway and land maintenance and construction company with a focus on serving governmental customers.”
Phillips earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration from Furman University but had no previous experience in the mowing industry when she filed to create the business in question.
The governor’s office has previously stated that Gov. Lee was not involved in TDOT’s decision to contract with Phillips’ company.
“There are thousands of contracts across state government and each department manages their respective procurement process without the involvement of the Governor’s office,” stated Lee Administration Spokesperson Elizabeth Johnson. “The governor is not involved whatsoever with department procurement processes.”
In a 2020 TDOT contract, the state paid Big Al Mowing $230,982 for mowing 7 miles along Interstate 440 in Nashville. In 2021, the state paid Big Al Mowing $391,050 to do virtually the same thing.
However, according to the governor’s office, TDOT terminated its contract with Big Al Mowing as of August 3rd, 2023, due to a “failure to meet performance standards.”
The company also secured a 24-month contract with the Nashville Department of Transportation (NDOT) and Multimodal Infrastructure worth $5 million for monthly right-of-way litter collection.
Big Al Mowing was not the first choice for the contract as the company allegedly failed to provide resumes or a detailed plan for the work. However, contract negotiations for NDOT’s first choice fell through, and the city chose Phillips’ company.
The mowing company has also recently landed contracts under the direction of TDOT Deputy Governor and Commissioner Butch Eley, whose wife Ginger Eley, serves alongside Phillips on Gov. Lee’s faith-based office board.
The Tennessean has noted that Phillips did not respond to any requests for comment.
Mainstream media bias aside, the publication has also stated that since they first started to dig into Big Al Mowing and its state contracts, the company’s website seems to have been deactivated and is no longer accessible.
About the Author: Adelia Kirchner is a Tennessee resident and reporter for the Tennessee Conservative. Currently the host of Subtle Rampage Podcast, she has also worked for the South Dakota State Legislature and interned for Senator Bill Hagerty’s Office in Nashville, Tennessee. You can reach Adelia at firstname.lastname@example.org.