TN Lt. Governor Ron Ramsey
By Chas Sisk | The Tennessean
Lt. Gov. Ron Ramsey and House Speaker Beth Harwell said Thursday that the state should re-examine no-bid deals awarded to a real estate firm that Gov. Bill Haslam has invested in.
The leaders of the state Senate and House of Representatives said after a meeting in Nashville that the legislature's Fiscal Review Committee ought to reconsider Jones Lang LaSalle's contract to manage state buildings and arrange leases on the state's behalf.
The remarks came after the Haslam administration gradually ramped up involvement with the firm from an initial contract to conduct a consulting report on state buildings to a five-year, $25 million deal that gave the firm oversight of 10.5 million square feet of state office space, as well as a commission on any leases it signs with private building owners.
Ramsey and Harwell defended Jones Lang LaSalle's work as having saved the state money and added they saw no evidence of impropriety by Haslam or others. But they said the manner in which the deals were awarded should be reviewed.
"I think it would be appropriate," said Harwell, R-Nashville. "Just the whole idea of sole-bidding, I think that's a legitimate concern for us to examine. I do not believe anything has been done wrong but .. that is appropriate."
Haslam listed Jones Lang LaSalle as one of more than 100 companies he was personally invested in before becoming governor two years ago. Those investments have been moved into a blind trust, so it is uncertain whether the governor is still invested in the Chicago-based real estate firm.
Jones Lang LaSalle won an initial $1 million contract from the Department of General Services to assess 33 major state properties in a competitive bid conducted soon after Haslam took office. That review produced recommendations that the state consolidate offices and lease space rather than construct new buildings.
The State Building Commission, on the Haslam administration's recommendation, gradually increased the scope and size of Jones Lang LaSalle's contract throughout 2012, without additional bidding. Last month, the Department of General Services announced the firm would take over management of state buildings, as well as provide consulting services.
The Haslam administration says the state will save $10 million a year by turning over management of its buildings to Jones Lang LaSalle.