NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places
Agents Raid ENA Offices, Seize Files
(Story created: 12/20/02)
Federal and state agents raided a Nashville company with close ties to the governor.
It marked what may be the most dramatic development yet in the probe investigation of alleged insider contracts handed out by the Sundquist administration.
The raid occurred Friday at the offices of Education Networks of America, an Internet company which has landed more than $180 million in state contracts. The company was formed by John Stamps and Al Ganier, two longtime friends of the Gov. Don Sundquist.
Agents backed a van inside the offices of Education Networks of America, trying to keep a lid on the raid. But through the window, investigators could be seen hauling away several boxes of evidence, including financial and personnel records.
"Automobiles pulled up with some representatives of the FBI and TBI -- and they walked in and said, 'We have a search warrant,'" explained ENA attorney Aubrey Harwell.
While Metro police stood by to make sure no one tried to run out, agents from the FBI and Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, IRS and state comptroller's office descended up ENA offices about 11 a.m.
Inside, for some seven hours, investigators combed through files -- while high-tech experts copied computer hard drives.
NewsChannel 5 investigative reporter Phil Williams asked Harwell, "Any idea what they are looking for?"
"No, Phil actually we don't." Harwell replied. "They've got a search warrant. We've been told that they want information. We have instructed people to provide that information."
The search warrant was authorized by a federal magistrate in Nashville.
Ganier, a longtime friend of the governor who headed Sundquist's first inaugural, landed a no-bid contract in 1996 to connect Tennessee schools to the Internet. ENA then used that experience to win two long-term contracts to continue that Internet service -- even though it wasn't the lowest bidder either time.
This comes more than two months after agents hauled off records from a state contractor in Chattanooga, also started by Stamps.
Investigators aren't talking. And the reaction from the governor's office: no comment.
But legal experts point out that mere suspicion isn't enough to obtain a search warrant. Instead, agents must have probable cause to believe that a crime has been committed and that the evidence of that crime could be found in the place to be searched.
U.S. Senator-elect Lamar Alexander also served on ENA's board, but he resigned earlier this month.