42 legislators ask delay in outsourcing; contract signing ahead of schedule

A week or so after 42 state legislators called for a delay in finalizing higher education outsourcing plans, Jones Lang LaSalle officials signed the company’s contract with the state ahead of schedule.

The Times-Free Press initially reported on the legislators’ letter to Gov. Bill Haslam’s outsourcing czar, Terry Cowles. It asks “that the outsourcing process wait until the General Assembly is able to study and understand the effects on our public services, economy, and state workers.”

The Nashville Post reported Tuesday in an overview of recent outsourcing developments that JLL officials actually affixed their signatures to the contract document on Friday, a week earlier than planned.

The contract is under review by the comptroller’s office before the state can officially sign off on it, but that review could be complete by the end of the day Friday, according to comptroller spokesperson John Dunn. The state’s bond counsel is also reviewing the contract to insure compliance. According to Dunn, that office has been asked to expedite its review but no firm time frame for its completion exists.

But criticism is pouring in from legislators and students, as letters and complaints fly to and fro, and University of Tennessee at Knoxville students held a large protest on Monday.

Forty-two legislators have sent a letter to Terry Cowles, the head of the Office of Customer Focused Government, asking for a halt to the process, and 17 legislators have asked for economic impact statements on the outsourcing, which would allow JLL to subcontract with other companies to provide custodial and landscaping services at state universities and a number of other agencies.

But Cowles says there are no ethical concerns about the selection of JLL as the winning bidder because the state retirement plan holds JLL stock.

… “We just learned all the retirement system is holding JLL stock, so you know if you’ve got any kind of mutual fund, there’s no telling. You may be holding it yourself if you have such a thing,” Cowles (said in a a confrontation with UT student protesters)… Cowles also says the men had “a very productive meeting with leadership” at UTK and that there are “a lot of states watching us.”

…(The legislators’ letter was drafted by Sen. Steve Dickerson, R-Nashville, and signed by 41 other lawmakers.)

In addition to Dickerson, also signing the letter were Sens. Richard Briggs (R-Knoxville), Janice Bowling (R-Tullahoma), Becky Duncan Massey (R-Knoxville), Ed Jackson (R-Jackson), Joey Hensley (R-Hohenwald), Doug Overbey (R-Maryville), Lee Harris (D-Memphis), Jeff Yarbro (D-Nashville) and Sara Kyle (D-Memphis).

From the House, the following legislators signed on: Reps. Bob Ramsey (-Maryville), Dale Carr (R-Sevierville), Ron Lollar (R-Bartlett), Joe Pitts (D-Clarksville), Craig Fitzhugh (D-Ripley), Rick Staples (D-Knoxville), Art Swann (R-Maryville), John Ray Clemmons (D-Nashville), Roger Kane (R-Knoxville), Mike Sparks (R-Smyrna), Darren Jernigan (D-Old Hickory), JoAnne Favors (D-Chattanooga), Antonio Parkinson (D-Memphis), Mike Carter (R-Ooltewah), Kent Calfee (R-Kingston), Micah Van Huss (R-Jonesborough), John Mark Windle (D-Livingston), Matthew Hill (R-Jonesborough), Timothy Hill (R-Blountville), Tillman Goins (R-Morristown), Dwayne Thompson (D-Cordova), Bryan Terry (R-Murfreesboro), Jerry Sexton (R-Bean Station), Sheila Butt (R-Columbia), Bo Mitchell (D-Nashville), Tim Rudd (R-Murfreesboro), Jimmy Eldridge (R-Jackson), Mary Littleton (R-Dickson), David Hawk (R-Greenville), Gerald McCormick (R-Chattanooga), Marc Gravitt (R-East Ridge) and John B. Holsclaw, Jr. (R-Elizabethton).

Bowling, Staples, Calfee, Jernigan, Clemmons, Mitchell, Thompson, Terry, Favors, Windle and Matthew Hill have also requested economic impact statements from General Services, as have Nashville Democrats Rep. Bill Beck, Rep. Jason Powell, Rep. Sherry Jones, along with Knoxville Republican Rep. Martin Daniel and Memphis Democrat Rep. Karen Camper. However, to date, no legislators have received any of the economic impact statements for their districts, just a form letter from the department acknowledging the request.

“As you can imagine, the information requested will take some time to prepare, but it will be provided once it can be compiled,” emailed Roberson.

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