Labor Commissioner Testifies Before Panel Investigating Contracts - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places

Labor Commissioner Testifies Before Panel Investigating Contracts

(Story created: 5/4/04)

Tuesday, a high ranking state official was called before a federal grand jury -- and he may be pointing the finger toward those close to former Gov. Don Sundquist.

The official we're talking about is Gov. Phil Bredesen's Labor Commissioner, Jim Neeley.

But the grand jury wanted to know about a contract that the previous administration gave to a friend of former Gov. Don Sundquist.

Neeley is a former organized labor figure who once served on an advisory group called the state Workforce Development Board.

In 1999, the board was asked to endorse a no-bid contract given to a company called Workforce Strategists.

It's a company started by Sundquist friend, John Stamps.

Former Labor Department employee Joanna Ediger is now awaiting trial, accused of helping to rig that contract.

The grand jury wants to know who was behind that contract.

"Had you been told that Gov. Sundquist specifically wanted this contract approved?" NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams asked Neeley after his testimony.

"Just let me say that during this whole planning process, we were told that this is the governor's discretionary money, and they wanted the contract approved," the now-Labor commissioner responded.

Neeley also said, "There's a problem here, and I think there will be a conclusion to it."

He says the Bredesen administration is doing everything that investigators ask to help with the investigation.

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