NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Friends in High Places
Grand Jury Subpoenas Sundquist's Cousin
(Story created 7/8/04)
The criminal investigation prompted by our own Friends in High Places investigation of state contracts is back in high gear. Wednesday, a federal grand jury heard from a cousin of former Gov. Don Sundquist. NewsChannel 5's chief investigative reporter Phil Williams was there as witness after witness emerged from the grand jury room.
From former Sundquist economic development commissioner Bill Baxter to Sundquist cousin Bonnie Currey, a federal grand jury continued to demand answers from a parade of witnesses.
All this comes six weeks after a jury convicted former Sundquist Labor Department appointee Joanna Ediger on corruption charges. It was a case in which longtime friend of the governor John Stamps was named an unindicted co-conspirator in that case.
Still, Currey's attorney was tight-lipped about what investigators are asking.
"We always prefer not to discuss things that are involved with the United States Attorney's Office," Aaron Wyckoff told Phil Williams.
Currey was business partners with Stamps and former deputy governor Alex Fischer in Comprehensive Community Care. That's a mental health company that got all its money from TennCare.
A spin-off company, Workforce Strategists, got the rigged contract that resulted in Ediger's conviction.
The grand jury also heard from Chuck Klusener, a former top official with TennCare provider Advocare. That company, which provided funding to Comprehensive Community Care, employed Stamps as its lobbyist during the Sundquist administration.
So what does the governor's cousin know? Wyckoff responded:
"It's really not fair for us to make comments about their investigations."
Baxter, who served as Sundquist's commissioner of economic and community development from December 1997 to December 2000, declined to discuss his testimony. He's now a member of the board of directors for the Tennessee Valley Authority.
Also testifying was Dana Moore, an executive with Education Networks of America, and former state official Mike McGuire, who handled a federal Appalachian Regional Commission grant that went to ENA.
Under the Sundquist administration, ENA landed a state contract worth tens of millions of dollars to connect Tennessee schools to the Internet.
The company was started by Stamps and another Sundquist friend Al Ganier.
Moore says she was just called as a witness.
"Can you say anything about your testimony?" Williams asked.
"I told the truth," Moore responded.
The question now is: to whom could the truth lead next?
As to whether Joanna Ediger may become a government witness now that she's been convicted, her lawyer isn't saying.