Photo Credit: Gov. Bill Lee / Facebook
The Center Square [By Jon Styf] –
Tennessee state Sen. Heidi Campbell has written Nashville District Attorney General Glenn Funk, asking him to look into no-bid contracts issued by Gov. Bill Lee’s administration during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Campbell, D-Nashville, identified five contracts she questioned, calling it an “alarming, multi-department pattern” in contracts issued during the pandemic.
Lee was able to suspend some of the rules regarding contracts during the pandemic state of emergency.
“Without documented reasoning, the public is left to speculate about the propriety of these contracts and whether political favoritism played a role,” Campbell wrote. “At this unique moment in time, with unprecedented levels of federal funding available to help Tennesseans, we must make sure that we are employing strong fiduciary and legal oversight.”
The contracts named by Campbell include a $75 million contract with Xtend Healthcare for contact tracing; a $26.5 million contract with Utah-based Nomi Health for testing and personal protective equipment; a $13.5 million contract with Pale Horse Global Risk Solutions, a small security company with a Hickman County business address that was contracted to provide personal protective equipment; an $8.3 million contract for face masks with North Carolina-based sock manufacturer Renfro Corporation; and a $165,000 contract for hospital gowns with Sexton Furniture Manufacturing.
“In March 2020, Tennessee had to compete with the rest of the world for resources, and thanks to the vaccine and life-saving treatments, emergency purchasing is no longer needed,” said Casey Black, press secretary for Lee. “Departments are permitted to extend existing contracts.”
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The contract with Sexton Furniture, based in Bean Station, is being questioned since the company is owned by state Rep. Jerry Sexton, R-Bean Station.
“While Lt. Governor McNally agrees that some of the state’s emergency contracts merit reflection and review, that review should be and is being done by the Comptroller and the legislature’s Fiscal Review Committee, not a rogue district attorney who picks and chooses which laws he enforces based on politics,” said Adam Kleinheider, spokesperson for Lt. Gov. Randy McNally.
Campbell wrote she believes Lee’s administration should explain why the businesses were chosen for the contracts.
“There are likely many honest and reputable business owners and nonprofit organizations in Tennessee wondering why the administration passed them over for emergency work,” Campbell said. “Every taxpayer deserves to know why vendors were awarded no-bid contracts.”
About the Author: Jon Styf, The Center Square Staff Reporter – Jon Styf is an award-winning editor and reporter who has worked in Illinois, Texas, Wisconsin, Florida and Michigan in local newsrooms over the past 20 years, working for Shaw Media, Hearst and several other companies. Follow Jon on Twitter @JonStyf.