NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — Lawmakers are calling for an investigation into no-bid contracts by Gov. Bill Lee’s administration.
Emergency powers give the governor the ability to suspend financial safeguards when approving contracts, but some say it’s being abused. Some of the contracts being reviewed include giving a Republican lawmaker’s furniture store $165,000 for hospital gowns that were eventually canceled to agreeing to a $75 million contract with Xtend Healthcare for charged with doing contact tracing, despite being a medical billing company with no epidemiology experience.
There’s growing frustration and struggle for oversight among lawmakers, like Sen. Heidi Campbell (D-Nashville), about spending coming out of the executive branch.
“I think that where there’s smoke you worry that there’s fire,” Campbell said.
She now wants Nashville’s District Attorney Glenn Funk to investigate.
“We just need to make sure that everybody is doing what they’re supposed to do because it’s our responsibility to make sure that our money and our programs are being held fiscally responsible,” Campbell said.
On Thursday, Funk signaled he will seek an investigation of the spending.
“I’m currently deciding which office or agency can best assist me in conducting this audit and the audit findings will be made public,” Funk said.
A $26.5 million contract was awarded to Nomi Healthcare, a Utah-based company, but was terminated with a $6 million buyout from taxpayers to the company. They were to provide PPE and COVID tests without prior experience.
“Of course we understand that, you know, in a pandemic and with emergency rules that there are going to be some situations where you need to do that,” Campbell said. “What’s problematic is that a lot of the people that have gotten these contracts have had no experience.”
Pale Horse Global, a small security company received a $13.5 million contract for PPE. Renfro Corp was paid $8.3 million for sock masks out of North Carolina.
And lawmakers approved an additional $8 million totaling $16 million for a New York-based literacy training program where Education Commissioner Penny Schwinn’s husband works.
Schwinn’s office did not respond to questions. Lee’s office also did not respond to questions about the potential investigation.