Administration Gets Subpoena - | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places

Administration Gets Subpoena

(Story created: 12/16/02)

For weeks, federal and state agents have quietly been investigating alleged insider contracts handed out by the Sundquist administration.

That investigation was prompted by our own Friends in High Places investigation.

Now, it appears that the criminal investigation has taken a major new turn -- with at least one subpoena from a federal grand jury.

For months, the governor and his aides insisted they had not received any subpoenas.

But, now, the governor's office is suddenly refusing to answer the question, citing federal grand-jury secrecy rules.

Still, a state government insider tells NewsChannel 5 that the administration has received a subpoena for certain state e-mail records relating to those contracts.

It's not clear whose e-mails investigators might be interested in -- or if any other subpoenas have been received.

Investigators aren't talking. U.S. Attorney Jim Vines says federal rules prohibit investigators from discussing grand jury matters.

However, those rules do not prevent witnesses nor subjects of an investigation from talking.

NewsChannel 5 has asked the Sundquist administration, under the state's public records law, to provide a copy of any subpoenas.

So far, it has refused.

This comes more than two months after agents seized records from Workforce Strategists, a state contractor in Chattanooga. The company is owned by John Stamps, a longtime friend of the governor who landed an exclusive, $2 million contract three years ago.

In addition, the state's contract with Education Networks of America also appears to be a focus of the investigation. The company, which provides Internet service to Tennessee schools, was started by Stamps and another longtime friend of the governor, Al Ganier.

Still, it does not appear likely that such a subpoena would produce any "smoking gun."

NewsChannel 5 has requested many e-mails regarding these contracts. The state's computer back-up tapes are routinely destroyed after a year -- and most of the questions about these contracts go back farther than that.

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