NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places
Former Deputy Governor Testifies Before Federal Grand Jury
(Story created: 1/7/04)
There's a major new development in our Friends in High Places investigation of state contracts. A man who was just one step below Gov. Don Sundquist was called before a federal grand jury. Former deputy governor Wendell Moore -- now a lobbyist whose clients include a big lottery company -- arrived at the federal courthouse Wednesday with his lawyer, longtime lottery proponent and state Sen. Steve Cohen.
"Can you talk about what you're up to?" NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams asked Cohen.
"Well, I'm looking forward to the lottery starting January 20th, and I hope you are, too," the Memphis Democrat quipped.
"What about Mr. Moore?"
"Mr. Moore is looking forward to that, too."
But, inside, it was no joking matter.
There, Moore spent more than an hour behind the closed doors of the federal grand jury that's been investigating how friends of his former boss, Gov. Don Sundquist, landed millions of dollars in state contracts.
Afterwards, Cohen insisted Moore is not a target of the investigation.
"He's a witness," Cohen said, "and we did what any citizen would do when you get subpoenaed to come be a witness -- you be a witness."
Moore was at Sundquist's side for years, serving as an aide to him in Congress, becoming a business partner with him in the Red Hot & Blue barbeque chain, serving as special assistant and chief administrative officer to the governor in his first term, managing his 1998 campaign for re-election, then serving as deputy governor and chief of staff for two years.
"Does he know of criminal wrongdoing?" Williams asked Cohen.
"I don't think he does. That's something for the grand jury to decide."
Investigators have been questioning witnesses about whether Moore helped steer state contracts to Workforce Strategists, a Chattanooga company was owned by Sundquist friend John Stamps.
Plus, there have been questions about computer contracts received by Moore's clients after he left the governor's office to become a lobbyist.
"Have you ever used politics to get contracts to help your clients?" Williams asked Moore.
In addition, there were at least two other witnesses testifying before the federal grand jury.
One of them: former BellSouth employee Vickie Stanfill was on the project team with Education Networks of America -- another company owned by a friend of the governor -- when it landed a huge state contract.