NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places
FBI Watches as Business Shuts Down
(Story created: 9/30/02)
A Chattanooga company with close ties to Governor Don Sundquist shut its doors Monday -- and the FBI was there when it happened.
That company, Workforce Strategists, apparently decided to fire its employees and close after officials learned that a new $744,000 contract that it had been expecting from the Sundquist administration had been put on hold.
Outside Workforce Strategists' office Monday afternoon, an FBI agent searched a car belonging to the company's longtime executive director, Marcus Burrows.
That occurred after the agent apparently spotted him leaving the business with several boxes.
Witnesses say Burrows let agents see that he was only removing personal items, then he was allowed to leave.
As NewsChannel 5 first reported, Workforce Strategists was supposed to provide counseling and coaching to help the unemployed get back to work. It was started by John Stamps, a former business partner to the governor.
Three years ago, the Sundquist administration gave Stamps' company an exclusive state contract worth almost $2 million.
The administration justified the contract saying it was "the only company in Tennessee" with experience for the job. That was just six days after Workforce Strategists was incorporated.
The new $744,000 contract was supposed to begin Oct. 1st.
But state Finance Commissioner Warren Neel told NewsChannel 5 that he had delayed signing it, until he could sort through the controversy.
The FBI and TBI, as well as auditors from the state comptroller's office, are investigating to see whether any laws were broken.