Feds Eye Ford, Contract Hinged on 'Principal Legislator' - NewsChannel5.com | Nashville News, Weather & Sports

NewsChannel 5 Investigates: Capitol Hill Corruption

Feds Eye Ford, Contract Hinged on 'Principal Legislator'

(Story created: 2/24/05)

FIRST ON 5: NewsChannel 5 has learned that the controversy surrounding state Sen. John Ford now has the attention of federal prosecutors. This comes on a day when damning new documents were released about Ford's possible ties to a TennCare company.

Sources tell NewsChannel 5 that the matters are being reviewed by the same prosecutors who've handled the criminal investigation into insider state contracts awarded by the Sundquist administration.

It is believed to be preliminary in nature, as they attempt to determine if there's enough to warrant a formal criminal investigation.

This comes as new documents from TennCare's dental provider, Doral Dental, raise even more questions about Ford's relationship with longtime TennCare figure Ron Dobbins. 

"What it raises is, whether a legislator is using his particular influence to broker a payment for money for his influence in the General Assembly," says Rep. Frank Buck, D-Dowellton.

Dobbins' company, Managed Care Services Group Inc., was hired by Doral in 2001 to help it win -- and keep -- a huge TennCare contract.

But the consulting agreement between Doral and Managed Care Services Group would face "automatic termination" upon "the death of the principal legislator affiliated with" Dobbins.

It's what may be a reference to Ford, although he isn't named.

When it comes to TennCare, Ford is one of the most powerful people on Capitol Hill. His Senate committee hears all legislation affecting health care issues.

"It's absolutely bothersome," Buck adds, "because it indicates the contract would never have been entered into unless the 'someone' were a member of the General Assembly."

He has repeatedly pushed to require lawmakers to disclose any consulting relationships with TennCare companies -- legislation opposed by Ford.

The documents also lay out payments to Dobbins' company:
3 cents per month for every TennCare enrollee.

That came to $597.000 in 2002 and 2003.

On his tax returns filed in a child support case, Ford reported income from a partnership with a similar name, Managed Care Services Group 1.

The total: $237,000.

Gov. Phil Bredesen promises an aggressive investigation.

"We are looking into what extent Doral may or may not have contravened state laws in regard to this arrangement," Bredesen says.

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